Does Soda Make You Fat?

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Soda has long been cited as a reason for increasing American waistlines. As we’ve started getting fatter, some argue, soda has gone from being an occasional treat to becoming a prominent part of people’s daily diets. Could there be a relationship between the two trends?

A 2006 paper by Malik, Schulze and Hu explores and describes the link between drinking sugary beverages and gaining weight. They searched the National Library of Medicine’s MEDLINE database and found 30 useful articles published between 1966 and May 2005.

The Relationship between Soda and Excess Weight

The research review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that drinking soda is related to being overweight or obese. Most of the studies were done with child participants, confirming many people’s suspicion that soda is part of why today’s kids are more overweight than previous generations. Some of the studies used adult participants, establishing a link in both kids and grown-ups.

In the Growing Up Today study, girls who drink sugary beverages were heavier than those who didn’t.
One three-year-long study found that kids—both boys and girls—who drank soda were heavier than those who didn’t. Kids who drank two or more sodas per day than they had during the previous year gained weight.

A study of adults found that people who drink one or more sodas each week are much more likely to be overweight than people who drink less than one soda a week. Another study found that women who drink one soda a week were about half a pound heavier than women who don’t drink soda at all.

Women who upped their consumption to one or more sodas per week gained more weight than women who lowered their consumption to one or fewer sodas per week.

Why Does Soda Make You Fat?

The study noted that women who drank more soda took in about 350 additional calories each day—most of them from soda. Because soda isn’t filling, people who take in extra calories in the form of soda are unlikely to make up for them by eating fewer calories at the next meal.

Sodas—even diet ones—might also make you feel like eating more. The easy-to-drink, sweet taste might make you hungry too soon, causing you to increase your daily calorie intake. If you don’t compensate for those extra calories eventually, either by eating less at the next meal or by exercising, your body will store them as unwanted weight.

Should I Stop Drinking Soda?

Reducing or eliminating your consumption of sugary drinks like sodas could help you be more successful at losing weight. Two studies of school-age kids found that drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages led to significant weight loss.

Sugary drinks, like other foods that don’t fill your belly, are a waste of precious calories that you could spend on a snack to fill you up. Compensating for calories consumed from drinking sugar beverages can leave you feeling hungry later. By eliminating sodas, you can slash hundreds of calories from your daily intake without getting any hungrier. At the same time, you can make room in your daily calorie budget for satisfying foods—and, yes, even the occasional treat.

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