Are Sugary Drinks Fattening? Depends on Whom You Ask

cola soda Coke beverage drink

Does drinking sugar-sweetened soda increase the risk for obesity? The answer may depend on who is paying for the study. Researchers looked at 17 large reviews. Six studies reported receiving funds from industry groups (the usual suspects, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association, and others. The other 12 studies claimed no con flits of interest.

Results: Among the reviews with no conflicts of interest, 10 of 12 (83%) found sugary drinks to be associated with weight gain or obesity. The conclusions of studies supported by industry were a mirror image: Five of six (83%) reported that there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion.

My Take: While industry participation is not a reason to immediately dismiss a study, we should always be aware that the food industry has vested interests that may influence their conclusions. In addition, studies that reveal unfavorable results may not even be published!

Do sugary drinks cause obesity? I strongly believe the answer is yes: Recent randomized trials support a positive association between sugary beverage consumption and being overweight/obese. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

Reference: Bes-Rastrollo M, Schulze MB, Ruiz-Canela M, Martinez-Gonzalez MA (2013) Financial Conflicts of Interest and Reporting Bias Regarding the Association between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews. PLoS Med 10(12): e1001578. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001578; Published: December 31, 2013

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

3 thoughts on “Are Sugary Drinks Fattening? Depends on Whom You Ask”

  1. Here’s what I think…. when conducting my own field research amongst my friends, the vast majority of real Coke drinkers are the skinny fuckers who “just can’t seem to put on weight.” The Diet Coke drinkers are the ones (like me) who are prone to putting on weight and drink the stuff to stay thin… therefore in the studies it’s obviously the people who drink diet coke who will get fatter over time no??

    1. Don’t know… I see little data to see that diet drinks help, but the studies are suboptimal. This study doesn’t refute your hypothesis, but I suspect you may be off the mark. The body is remarkably efficient at trying to maintain weight. The point of this research, I think, is that diet sodas simply make the consumer shift the calorie intake to a different product. If that’s the case, I’ll take natural over artificial (taste and unnecessary additives). Thanks for your thoughts and for reading the blog. Cheers!

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