Intervention programs designed to reduce children’s intake of sugar-sweetened beverages appear to reduce weight gain, according to the results of 2 studies published in the October 11, 2012, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine
In the first study, 224 overweight and obese adolescents were assigned to either a control group or an experimental group. Experimental group members had noncaloric beverages delivered to their homes every 2 weeks for the first year of the study. At the end of the first year, the change in body mass index (BMI) was 0.57 lower and the change in weight was 1.9 kg lower for the experimental group compared with the control group. (The difference was particularly large for Hispanic participants.) At the 2-year follow-up, the change in BMI for the experimental group was lower, but not significantly so.
In the second study, 641 primarily normal weight children aged 4 years 10 months through 11 years 11 months took part in an 18-month double-blind randomized trial. Each day at school, participants received either an 8-oz sugar-free beverage or a 104-calorie sugar-sweetened beverage. By the end of the trial, BMI increased on average 0.02 standard deviation (SD) units from the mean for a child’s age and sex in the sugarfree group and 0.15 SD units in the sugar group. Weight increased by 6.35 kg in the sugar-free group and 7.37 kg in the sugar group. Skinfold-thickness measurement, waist-to-height ratio, and fat mass also increased significantly less in the sugar-free group.