Want to shed a few pounds? Researchers say they’ve collected the strongest evidence yet that soda and sugary drinks impact genetic susceptibility to obesity. In other words, sugary drinks like sodas are once again shown to heavily contribute to the obesity epidemic – only this time it’s on a new level.
Dr. David Ludwig is the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of one of the studies. He says of sugary beverages, “I know of no other category of food whose elimination can produce weight loss in such a short period of time.”
To drive the point home, consider these numbers obtained by the government: Americans consumed twice as many calories in 2002 as in 1977. In that time frame, our rate of obesity doubled, too. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) took up the single greatest source of calories within that diet.
Sugary Beverages and a Genetic Predisposition to High BMI
The Harvard School of Public Health study in question was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Assistant professor and lead author Lu Qi gathered questionnaire-based data from 198,229 people. It should be noted that all participants studied were Caucasian, “for whom genotype data based on genome-wide association studies were available.”
Participants were separated into four groups:
- Very low sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption group – 1 SSB per month at most
- Low consumption group (1-4 servings monthly)
- Medium consumption group (2-6 servings weekly)
- High consumption group (1 serving daily at least)
The researchers found that individuals in the very low consumption group had a predisposition to a high body mass index (BMI) half that of the high consumption group.
“Regular consumption of sugary beverages may amplify the genetic risk of obesity. In addition, individuals with greater genetic predisposition to obesity appear to be more susceptible to harmful effects of SSBs on BMI,” say the authors.
Other Factors of Obesity
Predictably, the American Beverage Association was none too pleased with the findings. They remarked in a statement, not without cause, “We know, and science supports, that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverages. Studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue.”
Agreed, ABA In the spirit of fairness, we should keep in mind that in addition to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, there are several factors at work making America fat, including but not limited to pesticides, antibiotics, environmental toxins, and chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA).
Incidentally, sodas and sugary drinks play into several of these factors, since BPA can leach from the cans and plastic bottles and SSBs often contain GMO- and pesticide-riddled corn-based and artificial sugars that, in the case of diet sodas, confuse the body into a poor insulin response.
Indeed, there isn’t a single culprit. But let’s give credit where it’s due.