Researchers claim to link soda to obesity

by Keith Nunes
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WESTWOOD, CALIF. — Research released by the University of California at Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy purportedly have drawn a link between soda consumption and obesity. The researchers involved claim it is the first scientific evidence of the role soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages play in the rising incidence of obesity in California.

In the study titled "Bubbling over: soda consumption and its link to obesity in California," the researchers claim there is a strong correlation between soda consumption and weight. Their conclusion is based on data from more than 40,000 interviews conducted by the California Health Interview Surveys, the researchers found adults who drink a soda or more per day are 27% more likely to be overweight than those who do not drink sodas, regardless of income or ethnicity.

"The science is clear and conclusive: soda is fueling California’s $41 billion a year obesity epidemic," said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the C.C.P.H.A., and an author of the research brief. "We drink soda like water. But unlike water, soda serves up a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-oz serving."

The American Beverage Association responded to the study by noting it does not draw the conclusive link its authors claim.

"This study does not demonstrate cause and effect because, like all epidemiological studies, it looks at correlations," said Maureen L. Storey, senior vice-president of science policy for the A.B.A. "In fact, the compendium of science shows that soft drinks do not uniquely contribute to obesity or any other chronic disease.

"A review published in Nutrition Research Reviews concludes that there is little evidence from epidemiological studies that sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely than any other source of calories to lead to obesity. Furthermore, a study funded by the Canadian government that looked at more than 137,000 school-aged children in 34 countries found no association between soft drink intake and body mass index. And, a study by Harvard researchers published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that all calories count — regardless of food source — when it comes to losing weight."

In response to the U.C.L.A. study, California state senator Alex Padilla has planned to hold a hearing by the state’s Select Committee on Obesity and Diabetes on the correlation between soda consumption and obesity.

In the city of San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, called soda the new tobacco and proposed to levy a fee on retailers that sell sugar-sweetened beverages. Mr. Newsom did not elaborate on the amount retailers may have to pay as part of the fee.

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