Sweet enough already?

Peter Wootton-Beard, Oxford Brookes University

Are sugar-sweetened soft drinks making us fatter?

Several recent high-profile reports have suggested that drinks that contain sugar contribute towards being overweight or obese [1, 2].  Our own National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) showed that 52% of us consumed carbonated soft drinks (not low calorie) and 22% of us consumed concentrated soft drinks. Furthermore, 42% of men and 24% of women drink tea with sugar and 46% of men and 27% of women drink coffee with sugar [3]. We all know that sugar-sweetened drinks are not ‘good’ for us, but are they really BAD for us?

A review of the evidence published in The Nutrition Society’s journal ‘Nutrition Research Reviews’ is helping us to better understand the facts. Nutrition consultant and registered public health nutritionist Sigrid Gibson pulled together 44 studies to see if there really is any relationship between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and weight gain [4]. Half of all the investigations mentioned in this review showed that sugar-sweetened soft drinks might lead to being overweight; the other half showed that there was no connection. They did not include tea and coffee.

The review highlighted some problems with this area of research:

Despite these problems, some crucial information comes to light:


1. World Health Organisation & Food and Agriculture Organisation (2003). Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. Geneva: WHO.

2. World Cancer Research Fund (2007). Food, Nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer. Washington DC: American institute of cancer research.

3. Henderson, L., Gregory, J., & Swan, G. (2002). The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19-64 years; Types and quantities of foods consumed. Vol 1. London, UK: HMSO. Available from: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/ndnsprintedreport.pdf (accessed 20 February 2012).

4. Gibson, S. (2008). Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and obesity: a systematic review of the evidence from observational studies and interventions. Nutrition Research Reviews, 21, 134-147.

Source: The Nutrition Society


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