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Researchers at Harvard University and the University of Toronto have conducted a comprehensive review of numerous studies in the last decade and established that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages contributes to weight gain among children and adults.

SBBs associated with weight gain

The comprehensive review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed research on sweetened drinks and their link to overweight and obesity, which are associated with increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions. Led by Vasanti Malik, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, the study’s findings have implications for public policy and personal health.

The latest meta-analysis has been conducted on the association between sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and weight gain/chronic disease. The analysis, which included 85 studies and over half a million participants, showed a positive association between SSB consumption and weight gain in adults and children.

Cohort studies found that each serving-per-day increase in SSBs was associated with a 0.42-kg higher body weight in adults and a 0.07-unit higher body-mass index in children. The study also found that weight gain increased with increasing levels of SSB intake, providing strong evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship. This information could inform public policy decisions and updates to dietary guidelines.

Implications of SBBs on human health

One additional 12-ounce serving of SSBs per day was associated with a 0.20-kg higher body weight in adults over one year, while each extra daily serving of SSBs over one year led to a 0.03-unit higher BMI in children. Although the effects may seem modest, weight gain is gradual, with adults gaining about one pound per year on average. SSBs are high in calories and sugar, with a typical 12-ounce serving containing over 140 calories and eight teaspoons of sugar. Since SSBs are usually made with sugar or other sweeteners that are digested quickly, they contribute to a spike in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance over time. In addition, the fructose in SSBs can cause lipogenesis, contributing to fatty liver and metabolic disease. SSBs can also increase uric acid levels, leading to insulin resistance and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.