Research draws ire of American Beverage Association

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — A new study on the effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health has come under fire from the American Beverage Association, which claims the study’s findings not only fail to include relevant research but exhibit bias by only looking at certain data.

The study, "Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis," will appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The research was based on 88 studies and conducted by researchers with Yale University.

According to the researchers’ findings, there was a clear association of soft drink intake with increased calorie intake and body weight. In addition, soft drink intake was linked to lower intakes of milk, calcium and other nutrients and with an increased risk of several medical problems, such as diabetes.

"Recommendations to reduce population soft drink consumption are strongly supported by the available science," the researchers said.

The researchers did note substantial variability among the studies included in the review, including differing methods, populations, beverage types and measurements of key factors such as body weight. They said future research with more uniform approaches "would help clarify the impact of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health outcomes."

Susan K. Neely, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A., found fault with the study, though, saying it is not feasible to blame any one food product or beverage as the only contributor to obesity.

"This is yet another study by activists that not only fails to include relevant studies with contradictory findings, but exhibits bias by looking at parts of studies that are of significance to them and not at the studies in their entirety," Ms. Neely said. "The study’s authors pick and choose the data that support their beliefs rather than independent science.

"The beverage industry provides a wide variety of beverage options, all of which are safe and can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. In fact, many of the beverage industry’s products, including bottled waters, juices, sports drinks, teas and milk can be catalysts to health and fitness and diet soft drinks can help to cut calories."

The A.B.A. earlier this year went on the defensive after research from Children’s Hospital Boston found industry-funded beverage nutrition studies to be four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favorable to sponsors’ financial interests than non-industry funded studies. At that time, Ms. Neely said research was not being judged on its own merits.

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