A new study has found that teens who drink lots of sugary drinks can lose weight if they swap the sodas for non-caloric beverages such as water or diet drinks.
The research was led by Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at the Harvard-affiliated Boston Children's Hospital. It's published in the Sept. 21 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
His new study involved 224 overweight and obese ninth and tenth-graders (124 boys, 100 girls) who were habitual sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers, meaning they had either a 12-ounce sugary drink or 100 percent fruit juice every day.
They split students into two groups, one of which received a delivery every two weeks of non-caloric beverages such as water, flavored-water and diet drinks for one full year. The other group that served as controls received no non-caloric drinks but were mailed a $50 gift card to a supermarket at four and eight months (with no instructions on what to use it on) to ensure they wouldn't drop out of the study.
Ludwig said the researchers wanted to see if solely changing the teen's household environment to carry fewer sugary drinks would have an effect on his or her weight without a behavioral intervention explicitly promoting weight loss.
It turns out that simply swapping the drinks out of the home helped. After statistically ruling out other demographics so the only difference between groups would be sugary drink intake, teens who had the non-caloric deliveries gained an average of four fewer pounds over the course of a year than soda drinkers in the control group.
"No other single food product has been shown to change body weight by this amount over a year simply through its reduction," Ludwig said.