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An Epidemic of Obesity Myths
Myth: Soda Causes Childhood Obesity

The nutritionalists have, like, gone too far...

"…the inclusion of sugar-sweetened beverages in the snack food category did not meaningfully change the results. Regardless of the definition of snack food, there was not a strong association between intake of snack foods and weight gain … Our data did not offer support for the hypothesis that snacking promotes weight gain."
-Harvard researchers writing in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 2004

"These data indicate that snacking [including soda]-in and of itself-is not associated with an increased prevalence of obesity. Contrary to our expectations, our findings did not indicate any association between snacking patterns and BMI, nor did we find great differences in dietary intake patterns based on snacking habits."
-Journal of Human Nutrition, 2003

"There was no relationship between RCSD consumption from all sources and BMI in either the CSFII or the NHANES data. The risk assessment showed no impact on BMI by removing RCSD consumption in school. These findings suggest that focusing adolescent overweight prevention programs on RCSD in schools will not have a significant impact on BMI."
-Risk Analysis, 2005

"BMI was not associated with consumption of milk, regular carbonated beverages, regular or diet drinks/ades, or non-citrus juices."
-International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2003

"Total daily energy intake from the sum of calories from chips, candy, soda, baked goods, and ice cream was significantly higher in the non-obese than in the obese group."
-Obesity Research, 1999

"Despite concerns about the adverse effects of sugar on body weight levels, the majority of epidemiological studies have demonstrated no positive correlations between sugar consumption and obesity."
-European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999

"Children from schools with and without sales of soft drinks consumed an average of 33.5 and 32.5 g of sucrose per day respectively. Availability of soft drinks at schools was not associated with significantly increased risks of overweight. Children attending schools with more frequent physical education classes were increasingly more likely to have normal body weight ..."
-Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2005

"Evidence for the association between sugar-sweetened drink consumption and obesity is inconclusive ... [N]ational data showed no association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and BMI [body mass index] calculated from self-reported height and weights of children and adolescents."
-CDC research published in the International Journal of Obesity, 2005

Four published studies claim to show a connection between childhood obesity and soda consumption. All of them have significant limitations.

Study 1 - Journal of Pediatrics, 2003
The authors readily admit: "Unfortunately, the sample size was too small to provide sufficient power for the observed difference in weight gain to be statistically significant." That's because their study was based on a sample of only 21 children. They also note: "Similar trends in weight gain, just stronger, was [sic] observed with excessive consumption of fruit juice." In fact, the study found that children who drank more than 12 ounces of fruit juice each day gained three times as much weight as kids who consumed more than 16 ounces of soda.

Study 2 - British Medical Journal, 2004
Children in England were given anti-soda lessons and compared with children who did not receive the lessons. In the first group, the number of obese kids dropped from 16 to 14. But obesity also declined—from 15 to 14—among kids who did not receive the lessons. Moreover, the difference in BMI between the two groups was not statistically significant.

Study 3 - Obesity Research, 2004
While claiming to show that soda consumption was linked to childhood weight gain, this study found that diet soda consumption was more closely linked to obesity than sugar-added beverages. At the same time, it determined that fruit juice outpaced sugar-added beverages in contributing to weight gain. It also found that children consumed three times more milk than sugar-sweetened beverages.

Study 4 - Lancet, 2001
The authors admit: "There was no independent, significant association between baseline consumption [of sugar sweetened drinks, including soda] and obesity … The study has limited statistical power, with 548 children (the entire cohort) in analyses of BMI, but only 37 in estimates of incident obesity." This compares with the aforementioned study of 14,000 children by Harvard researchers, which concluded soda and snack consumption were not linked to obesity.