Weight-Loss Benefits From Cutting Out Sugary Drinks Short-Lived

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Drawing on their findings, the researchers recommend making noncaloric beverages more available and providing clear messages to help teens cut back on sugary drinks.

One study author also suggested creating a sugary drink tax that could raise money for obesity prevention.

Racine believes all this is possible.

"Our beliefs and attitudes evolve over time," he said. "The more we learn about this, the easier it'll be to change public policy.

"When you spend time with parents, they have a profound and deep-seated concern about what's healthy for their children," Racine, who is also a pediatrician, said. "So making policy changes in support of our children's health should not be as challenging as people think."

It's important to remember that sugary drinks are not addictive, said Racine, which helps when it comes to cutting back. It's a taste that's not preprogrammed but develops in our kids, he said. "We can develop a taste for other things."

He cited the recently passed New York City ban on large sugary drinks as a step in the right direction. "[We're] setting up a natural experiment to see whether or not it's effective," he said. "It may turn out that after we institute some of the policies that we don't find as great an effect as we anticipated. That's a possibility. But we need to try."

Studies show that sugary drinks are the largest single source of calories in our diet across the United States. The good news is this study is that if teenagers cut back on sugary drinks, they gain less weight. The disheartening news is that much work is still needed to keep kids from downing sugary drinks for the long-term.

This study, along with two related studies published in the same journal, provide a strong case for regulating the intake of sugary drinks in the battle against childhood obesity, said Dr. Sonia Caprio, a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in any of these studies.

"Furthermore, policy decisions about sugar-sweetened beverages should not be considered in isolation," she said. "Other strategies to achieve and maintain normal weight, including increasing physical activity, will be important to stem the obesity epidemic and its effects.

"These three studies suggest that calories from sugar-sweetened beverages do matter," she said. "The time has come to take action."

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