Fizzing Out the Fat

Study finds promoting less soda in schools can lower obesity among children.

May 10, 2004 -- School-based programs discouraging soda and other carbonated drinks appear to be effective in reducing obesity among children, a new British study suggests.

Obesity in children has reached epidemic proportions, and a contributory factor seems to be the consumption of carbonated drinks sweetened with sugar. Children who drink one non-diet carbonated drink a day take in an average 10 percent more total calories than non-consumers, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) study said. The study aimed to find out if eliminating even less than a glass a day of "fizzy" drinks (sweetened and unsweetened) while promoting a balanced healthy diet would reduce obesity among kids.

The year-long study found the "Ditch the Fizz" campaign did lead to a decrease in the percentage of kids who were overweight by 0.2 percent. Interestingly, the percentage of  overweight and obese kids increased by 7.5 percent in a control group that did not participate in the program. There was no significant change in body mass index for either group.

NOTE: It is not possible to prove the weight improvements were solely linked to the decline in soda consumption, because the kids may have changed other aspects of their diet or lifestyle at the same time.

Parents offers these ways to help your child stay at a healthy weight:

  1. Watch for dramatic, early weight gains. In one recent study, researchers found that rapid weight gain in the first four months of life was associated with an increased risk of being overweight at age seven.
  2. Get to an ideal weight yourself. Young children of an obese mother are three times more likely than those with a lean mom to become obese adults; the odds jump to ten times when both parents are obese.
  3. Restrict your toddler's fat intake. When she's two, switch her from whole milk and high-fat dairy products to lower-fat varieties.
  4. Limit screen time. Research shows that kids who watch four or more hours of TV a day have more body fat and a greater body-mass index than those who watch less than two hours a day.
  5. Cut back on fruit juice. Juice is high in calories and low in nutrients. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you restrict a young child's juice consumption to six or fewer ounces a day. One idea is to cut the juice with water, or to offer fruit rather than fruit juice.
  6. Keep a drinking diary. Help your child write down all of the beverages that he or she consumes throughout the day. Encourage your child to drink water.

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