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Sugar-sweetened drinks and weight gain: more evidence

A review of previous studies reinforces the link between soda consumption and weight gain in adolescents. According to the review, published in the Journal of School Nursing, soft-drink consumption has increased by 300 percent in the past 20 years, and up to 85 percent of school children drink at least one soda every day. The risk of becoming obese increases 1.6 times with each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened drink consumed beyond normal daily intake. Researchers performed a computer search using the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature and MEDLINE electronic databases, accessing all relevant articles published between 2000 and 2006. Two randomized studies examined the influence of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption on adolescent weight gain. According to the researchers, these two studies "illustrate the strong argument that high-GI beverages and foods contribute to adolescent obesity by limiting satiety, increasing insulin resistance, and providing an abundance of excess energy storage." Because sugar-sweetened beverages increase blood glucose and decrease insulin sensitivity, they stimulate hunger (which leads to increased caloric intake) and increase the risk of developing obesity and diabetes. For example, according to one of the studies reviewed, consuming approximately one extra serving of a sugar-sweetened soft drink daily produced a 23-poundaverage increase in body mass over the course of 10 years. Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives available. More and more companies are marketing 100-percent fruit juices, which help satisfy children's daily requirement for fruit. While most juices don't contain as many nutrients as whole fruit (which retain their skin and pulp), they're better options than sugar-laden, empty-calorie soft drinks.

Dr. Berglund's comments This solution isn't much better. At this time, I strongly encourage parents to discontinue the juice consumption. Studies are showing that kids drinking juice all day long are also prone to obesity when they are older. I believe that by giving juice, we are training the tongue to enjoy sweet, rather than training it to enjoy veggies and other flavors. I also believe that drinking juice (which has calories) causes the child to be more finicky at meal time, and thereby, has them most likely skipping the important foods at the meal. The rule I have patients try to live by: If you are thirsty, drink water. If you are hungry, eat food. Don't confuse the two.

And of course, you can never go wrong with water. According to the Cleveland Clinic, adequate water intake keeps joints lubricated, helps prevent constipation, reduces the risk of kidney stones, and lessens the severity of colds and flu. Schools are beginning to limit or outright ban soft drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages. That's a good start, but it's not enough. Share this information with your patients and encourage them to keep those sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks away from their children. They'll thank you for it when their children grow up healthy instead of suffering from obesity and weight-related disease.

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