Soda and Obesity

type 2 diabetes, obesityWhile a major study relating soda and obesity was done in California, the hypothesis, observations and outcomes are applicable to all the states of the Union.  More than half the adolescents in that state and almost a fourth of the adults treat themselves to at least one sweetened beverage every day.  One of the concerns expressed by UCLA researchers is that the serving size has grown from an average of 6.5 ounces and eighty-eight calories in the 1950’s to 20 ounces and two hundred sixty-six calories by the 2000’s.  In fast food restaurants in 2003, the average serving was 23 ounces (almost 300 calories).  These added caloric sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, are not only markers of a poor diet, but also are associated with overweight and obesity in all age groups.

The UCLA Health Policy Research Brief from September, 2009, reports from its data that, “Adults who drink soda occasionally (not every day) are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese, and adults who drink one or more sodas per day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not drink soda, even when adjusting for poverty status and race/ethnicity.”  Even though the prevalence of overweight in children is lower than in adults, the rates among children have increased more.  In fact, overweight has tripled in teenagers and quadrupled in those from six to eleven years old in the last three decades.  In California the cost of obesity approaches twenty-one billion dollars a year, burdening families, employers and the health care industry.  The study comments that, “California spends more public and private money on the health consequences of obesity than any other state.”  To compound the matter, the article admits that “…drinking soda is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.”

One third of American adults are obese. Their health care costs $1500 more a year than it does for an average-weight person.  The Center for Disease Control announced in July, 2011, that obesity in the entire United States costs $147 billion a year in direct medical costs.  Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said the problem is “getting worse rapidly.  The average American is now 23 pounds overweight.”  For Medicare, the cost of obesity is 72% greater just for prescription drugs.  The CDC says that one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.  How did we get there?  Diet.  Does the rest of the world share the problem?  Yes.  Where does the blame go?  White flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soft drinks and fast food.

Whether it gets marketed as corn sugar or as high fructose corn syrup, which is what it is, this commodity is not equal to other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain.  HFCS costs less than table sugar because, being liquid, it’s easier to transport and blend.  It’s sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), so less is needed, and it’s cheaper because of a combination of corn subsidies and sugar tariffs and quotas.  Cheap corn, in fact, is the building block of the fast-food nation.  Cheap corn created the chubby 20-ounce bottle of soda we have today.

High fructose corn syrup commonly is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, somewhat different from the 50-50 mix in table sugar, where one fructose molecule is attached to one glucose molecule.  Some HFCS may be as high as 80% fructose.  Since all sugars contain four calories per gram, there must be something else about fructose that matters.  Fructose is metabolized more rapidly that glucose, flooding metabolic pathways and increasing triglyceride storage.   It doesn’t spur the production of insulin or leptin, the hormone that sequesters appetite.  The body then lacks satiety.  This elevates serum triglycerides and increases fat storage.  Since it may have less impact on appetite than glucose, fructose contributes to weight gain.  Ingesting lots of fructose may also reduce insulin sensitivity.  (Beck-Nielsen, 1980)

Soft drink consumption has more than doubled in the twenty years from 1977 to 1997.  Not surprisingly, obesity followed the same trend. Cause and effect? It’s been estimated that for each additional sweet drink consumed per day, the odds of obesity increase by sixty percent.  A study of more than fifty thousand nurses by Harvard compared time periods from 1991-1995 and 1995-1999, and found that women whose soda consumption increased had bigger rises in body-mass index than those who drank less or the same amounts of soda. Fast food seems to go well with it.  Unhealthy foods get along nicely with each other.

The debate between the soft drink industry and the health nuts is ongoing.  People who consume lots of fresh-squeezed juices, vegetables and fruits are not the same group that consumes soda and cold cut sandwiches.  The daily calories from soft drinks account for almost a fourth of the recommended daily intake for many Americans, who drink almost fifty-six gallons of soda a year.

In case you’re interested, more than 30% of Americans are obese. More than 24% of Mexicans, 23% of British, 22% of Slovakians, 22% of Greeks and Australians, 21% of New Zealanders, and 15% of Czechs, but only 3% of Japanese and Koreans. Go figure. Obesity, by the way, means being more than 20% above ideal weight for height.


UCLA Health Policy Research Brief
September 2009
Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California
Susan H. Babey, Malia Jones, Hongjian Yu and Harold Goldstein

In California, 62% of adolescents ages 12-17 and 41% of children ages 2-11 drink at least
one soda or other sweetened beverage every day. In addition, 24% of adults drink at least
one soda or other sweetened beverage on an average day. Adults who drink soda occasionally
(not every day) are 15% more likely to be overweight or obese, and adults who drink one or
more sodas per day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese than adults who do not
drink soda, even when adjusting for poverty status and race/ethnicity.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased dramatically in both adults
and children in the last three decades in the United States. In the 1970s, about 15% of
adults were obese and by 2004 the rate had climbed to 32%.1 Although the prevalence of
overweight among children is lower than among adults, the rates among children and
adolescents have increased considerably more. The prevalence of overweight and obesity
nearly tripled among 12-19 year olds and more than quadrupled among 6-11 year olds
in the last three decades.

In California, 21% of adults are currently obese and an additional 35% are overweight. Among adolescents, 14% are obese and another 16% are overweight.2 Similar to national trends, the trend in California is toward increasing weight in both adults and adolescents.3 Each year in California, overweight and obesity cost families, employers, the health care industry and the government $21 billion.4 California spends more public and private money on the health consequences of obesity than any other state.5

Overweight and obesity are associated with serious health risks. In children and adolescents, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease indicators including high total cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting insulin, an early indicator of diabetes risk.6 In addition, overweight children and adolescents are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.7 In adults, overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer and premature death.1, 8, 9

Drinking sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit drinks that have added caloric sweeteners (e.g., sucrose, high fructose corn syrup) is one marker of a poor diet, and is
associated with overweight and obesity in people of all ages.10-13 A number of studies have found that greater consumption of sweetened beverages is associated with overweight and obesity among both adults and children.12-19 In addition, randomized controlled trials that examine the impact of reducing intake of sweetened beverages on weight indicate
that reducing consumption of soda and other sweetened drinks leads to reductions in
overweight and obesity.20, 21 Among adults, drinking soda is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.13 Moreover, drinking sweetened beverages has
increased, and it is now more common than ever, particularly among adolescents.22
Between 1977 and 2002 Americans increased their calorie intake from soft drinks by
228%.23 Portion sizes have also increased from an average serving size of 6.5 fl oz (88 calories) in the 1950s, to 12 fl oz (150 calories), 20 fl oz (266 calories), and even larger portion sizes common today.24-26 The average serving size of soft drinks in fast food restaurants in 2002 was 23 fl oz (299 calories), with some chains now commonly selling soft drinks in 32 to 64 fl oz portions (416 to 832 calories, respectively).27 Sweetened beverages are a significant contributor to total caloric intake, especially for children and adolescents, and they lack the nutrients our bodies need.24, 26, 28

Additionally, eating habits established in childhood are important determinants of
eating habits as adults.29, 30

Am J Clin Nutr February 1980 vol. 33 no. 2 273-278
Impaired cellular insulin binding and insulin sensitivity induced by high-fructose feeding in normal subjects
H Beck-Nielsen, O Pedersen and HO Lindskov

We have studied whether the sucrose-induced reduction of insulin sensitivity and cellular insulin binding in normal man is related to the fructose or the glucose moiety. Seven young healthy subjects were fed their usual diets plus 1000 kcal extra glucose per day and eight young healthy subjects were fed their usual diets with addition of 1000 kcal extra fructose per day. The dietary regimens continued for 1 week. Before change of diet there were no statistically significant differences between body weight and fasting plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, and ketone bodies in the two groups studied. High- glucose feeding caused no significant changes in insulin binding or insulin sensitivity whereas high-fructose feeding was accompanied by a significant reduction both of insulin binding (P less than 0.05) and insulin sensitivity (P less than 0.05). The changes in insulin binding and insulin sensitivity correlated linearly (r = 0.52, P less than 0.01). We conclude that fructose seems to be responsible for the impaired insulin binding and insulin sensitivity induced by sucrose.

Medscape J Med. 2008;10(8):189. Epub 2008 Aug 12.
Soft drinks and weight gain: how strong is the link?
Wolff E, Dansinger ML.
Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Soft drink consumption in the United States has tripled in recent decades, paralleling the dramatic increases in obesity prevalence. The purpose of this clinical review is to evaluate the extent to which current scientific evidence supports a causal link between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and weight gain.

MEDLINE search of articles published in all languages between 1966 and December 2006 containing key words or medical subheadings, such as “soft drinks” and “weight.” Additional articles were obtained by reviewing references of retrieved articles, including a recent systematic review. All reports with cross-sectional, prospective cohort, or clinical trial data in humans were considered.

Six of 15 cross-sectional and 6 of 10 prospective cohort studies identified statistically significant associations between soft drink consumption and increased body weight. There were 5 clinical trials; the two that involved adolescents indicated that efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened soft drinks slowed weight gain. In adults, 3 small experimental studies suggested that consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks caused weight gain; however, no trial in adults was longer than 10 weeks or included more than 41 participants. No trial reported the effects on lipids.

Although observational studies support the hypothesis that sugar-sweetened soft drinks cause weight gain, a paucity of hypothesis-confirming clinical trial data has left the issue open to debate. Given the magnitude of the public health concern, larger and longer intervention trials should be considered to clarify the specific effects of sugar-sweetened soft drinks on body weight and other cardiovascular risk factors.  PMID: 18924641

Diabetes Care. 2010 Nov;33(11):2477-83. Epub 2010 Aug 6.
Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis.
Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després JP, Willett WC, Hu FB.

Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), which include soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, and energy and vitamin water drinks has risen across the globe. Regular consumption of SSBs has been associated with weight gain and risk of overweight and obesity, but the role of SSBs in the development of related chronic metabolic diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, has not been quantitatively reviewed.

We searched the MEDLINE database up to May 2010 for prospective cohort studies of SSB intake and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. We identified 11 studies (three for metabolic syndrome and eight for type 2 diabetes) for inclusion in a random-effects meta-analysis comparing SSB intake in the highest to lowest quantiles in relation to risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Based on data from these studies, including 310,819 participants and 15,043 cases of type 2 diabetes, individuals in the highest quantile of SSB intake (most often 1-2 servings/day) had a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those in the lowest quantile (none or <1 serving/month) (relative risk [RR] 1.26 [95% CI 1.12-1.41]). Among studies evaluating metabolic syndrome, including 19,431 participants and 5,803 cases, the pooled RR was 1.20 [1.02-1.42].

In addition to weight gain, higher consumption of SSBs is associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These data provide empirical evidence that intake of SSBs should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases.

J Public Health Policy. 2004;25(3-4):353-66.
The obesity epidemic in the United States.
Morrill AC, Chinn CD.
Capacities Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts 02471, USA.

We describe the epidemic of obesity in the United States: escalating rates of obesity in both adults and children, and why these qualify as an epidemic; disparities in overweight and obesity by race/ethnicity and sex, and the staggering health and economic consequences of obesity. Physical activity contributes to the epidemic as explained by new patterns of physical activity in adults and children. Changing patterns of food consumption, such as rising carbohydrate intake–particularly in the form of soda and other foods containing high fructose corn syrup–also contribute to obesity. We present as a central concept, the food environment–the contexts within which food choices are made–and its contribution to food consumption: the abundance and ubiquity of certain types of foods over others; limited food choices available in certain settings, such as schools; the market economy of the United States that exposes individuals to many marketing/advertising strategies. Advertising tailored to children plays an important role.  PMID: 15683071

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email