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You Are What You Drink

by Jackie powder

It seems that America is perpetually on a collective diet. We struggle to avoid chips, cheeseburgers, chocolate and ice cream.

According to Bloomberg School researchers, however, cutting back on soft drinks and other sugar-laden drinks might be more effective in the fight against fat.

A study published in April in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults who reduced their consumption of sugary, high-calorie drinks (caloric beverages) lost more weight at 6 and 18 months than did individuals who cut back on solid foods.

“A calorie is a calorie, so if people consume too many calories it doesn’t matter where they come from,” says Benjamin Caballero, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor in International Health. “But in the case of fluid calories, it seems it matters.”

Caloric beverages, which include soft drinks, fruit drinks or other sugar-sweetened high-calorie beverages, may cause less satiety than solid calories, and have few, if any, essential nutrients.

The study, according to Caballero, is the first to show a causal link between caloric drinks and body weight.

Over the past two decades, Americans have increased their daily calorie intake by 250 to 300 calories, with approximately half of the additional calories coming from sugar-sweetened drinks. Previous Bloomberg School studies have shown a link between caloric drinks and the sharp rise in the obesity epidemic, which could affect 75 percent of Americans by 2015.

Study researchers recorded the solid and liquid dietary intake of 810 adults, measuring their weight and height at 6 and 18 months. Participants who eliminated 1 serving of a caloric beverage lost 0.5 kg at 6 months and 0.7 kg at 18 months.

“We were surprised by the consistency of it,” Caballero says, “the linear reduction between reduction in caloric beverages and the reduction in body weight and the fact that it was sustained over 18 months.”

Caballero said the findings demonstrate the benefits of limiting sodas and other high-calorie drinks, as a weight loss tool.

“If you reduce your consumption of caloric beverages, just one can of soda over a period of time, if you do it consistently, our study suggests that it will make a difference,” he says.