By RONI CARYN RABIN
Amid fervid criticism that New York City risks becoming a nanny state, city health officials this month banned the sale of supersize sugar-laden drinks in restaurants and movie theaters. Now scientists have handed the ban’s advocates a potent weapon: strong evidence that replacing sugared drinks with sugar-free substitutes or water really can slow weight gain in children.
Benjamin Lesczynski, 8, protested limits in New York, but new studies tend to support the idea.
In Soda Fight, Industry Focuses on the Long Run (September 13, 2012)
Two-thirds of all American adults and one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. The contribution of sugary sodas and fruit drinks to this epidemic has been hotly disputed. But two new randomized clinical trials published on Friday in The New England Journal of Medicine lend credence to the idea that limiting access to these beverages may help reduce obesity.
Beverage industry officials denounced the research, which may fuel wider efforts to curb consumption through taxes or other restrictions.
In one of the new trials, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital randomly assigned 224 overweight or obese teenagers to receive home deliveries of bottled water and diet drinks for one year. The children also were regularly encouraged to avoid sugary drinks. Those who received the shipments gained only 3.5 pounds on average during that year, while a comparison group of similar teenagers gained 7.7 pounds. The differences between the groups evaporated after the deliveries stopped.
In the second trial, researchers at VU University Amsterdam randomly assigned 641 normal-weight schoolchildren ages 4 to 11 to drink eight ounces of a 104-calorie sugar-sweetened or noncaloric sugar-free fruit-flavored drink every day from identical cans. Over 18 months, children in the sugar-free group gained 13.9 pounds on average, while those drinking the sugar-added version gained 16.2 pounds.