The consumption of soft drinks is clearly related to the increase in overweight and obesity among adolescents. The confirmation comes from an Anglo-Japanese study, published on Jama Network Open. (1)
Soft drinks and obesity, the study
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Kanagawa examined levels of soft drink consumption and the incidence of overweight and obesity in 405.528 school-age adolescents (children enrolled in school) of 107 countries and regions (of which 65 low/middle income and 42 high income).
Overall, 17% of adolescents (average age 14 years) were overweight or obese and 33% said they consumed soft drinks one or more times a day.
The worst figure in the islet of Niue
The incidence of overweight and obesity measured ranges from 3% in Cambodia to 64% in Niue. The small island in the Pacific Ocean also stands out for another unseemly record. In fact, among his adolescents there is also the maximum consumption of soft drinks one or more times a day: 80% compared to 3% of the most attentive young Icelanders.
The striking correspondence of cause and effect detected in Niue is the perfect synthesis of the data collected in the 107 countries considered, which show a statistically significant association between the daily consumption of drinks and overweight/obesity.
The prairie of low-income countries
The consumption of soft drinks continue to grow, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, targeted by persuasive marketing of the sector industry.
Health policies however, in a few cases national governments contrast this phenomenon, guided by a short-sightedness that will open their eyes too late to the harmful effects on the health of the population and the health care coffers. (2)
'The comprehension of the association between soft drink consumption and extra pounds is important in curbing the trend, especially in low- and middle-income countries, because many beverage companies are stepping up marketing and sales promotion in those areas', warn the researchers.
Correlations between consumption of soft drink, overweight and obesity
Data analysis shows that every 10% increase in daily consumption of soft drinks corresponds to a 3,7% increase in the incidence of overweight or obesity.
The correlations between the consumption of soft drink, overweight and obesity are explained by two probable mechanisms:
– the trivial intake of an excessive amount of energy, due to the unbalanced amount of sugar added to drinks,
– a decrease in the sense of satiety, due to the ingestion of liquid calories, with the consequent search for 'solid' calories in subsequent meals.
La sugar tax it is the most common policy to combat the excessive consumption of soft drinks and the consequent increase in obesity rates. This measure has been implemented in over 50 countries worldwide, with evidence of effectiveness, such as in the recent study of British adolescent girls. (3)
The authors of the study show that
– high-income countries are more likely to levy taxes on soft drinks than low- and middle-income countries (42,9% vs 21,5%),
– In countries with soft drinks taxes, the prevalence of daily soft drink consumption among school-going adolescents is lower than in countries without such taxes (30,2% vs 33,5%).
'These results suggest that governments, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, they should take actions such as imposing taxes on soft drinks to reduce consumption of soft drinks or to reduce the amount of sugar consumed from soft drinks, to help curb the rapid rise in obesity', conclude the researchers, who also call for the promotion of other health measures, such as the reduction of caloric and saturated fat intake and the increase in physical activity.
(1) Hu H, Song J, MacGregor GA, He FJ. Consumption of Soft Drinks and Overweight and Obesity Among Adolescents in 107 Countries and Regions. JAMA Network Open. 2023;6(7):e2325158. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.25158
(2) Dario Dongo, Sabrina Bergamini. Sugared and sweetened drinks, sweet snacks. Studies on premature mortality and sugar tax. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(3) Marta Singed. Sugar tax. 5.000 fewer cases of obesity among British girls. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".