Dutch research links sugary drinks to childhood weight gain

Dutch and American researchers have come up with the first hard evidence that sugary drinks have a role in childhood obesity, the NRC reports.

The VU research involved Dutch children from eight primary schools in Haarlem, Purmerend and the Zaanstreek area north of Amsterdam and found children who were not given sugary drinks weighed a kilo less than their peers over an 18-month period.
Acccording to the New York Times, the VU researchers asked 641 normal-weight schoolchildren aged four to 11 to drink eight ounces of a 104-calorie sugar-sweetened or no-calorie sugar-free fruit-flavoured 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,’ the paper said. The difference between the two groups is just over one kilo.
Reduced sugar
Dutch children drink an average of 48 grammes of sugar a day in drinks and fruit juices. The children in the research project had their liquid sugar consumption reduced by 26 grammes, the NRC said.
Professor Martijn Katan of Amsterdam’s VU University presented the results of the research to a congress on obesity in San Antonio on Friday.
At the same time similar research was presented by American researchers which showed reduced sugary drink consumption by obese teenagers cut their weight by 1.9 kilos a year.
A spokesman for the Dutch soft drinks industry told the NRC producers had no intention of voluntarily reducing sugar levels. ‘We don’t sell soft drinks to primary schools,’ said Raymond Gianotten. ‘We are not going to remove sugary childrens’ drinks from the supermarket. Customers can also choose for light products.’
According to the national statistics office CBS, around 11% of Dutch children are now overweight or obese, compared with 4% in the early 1980s.
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