On The Sugar Wars: Science's Fierce, Geeky Debate Over Soda

Thank you for the insightful piece! I would just like to add a few points, which I think are imperative to the argument at hand. First, there are a number of strong observational studies supporting an association between sugary drinks and obesity and related co-morbidities. These (prospective cohort) studies tend to be larger, longer in duration and include repeated measures of diet and outcome over time. While randomized controlled trials have traditionally been the gold standard in epidemiological research, when studying diet in relation to disease, well- designed observational studies can indeed be powerful tools. Second, in the new study by Ebbeling in the NEJM, it is not surprising that the difference between intervention and control groups disappeared by the end of the second year since the intervention ended after one year. This actually provides support for continuation of the intervention. Third, the other two studies published alongside the Ebbeling study in the NEJM should have been mentioned as strong evidence for a link between SSB and obesity. One of these studies, a double-blinded trial from the Netherlands, found that substituting noncaloric drinks for SSB resulted in significant reductions in body weight and fatness in 641 children over 18 months. The other study, which was based on a combined analysis of two large Harvard cohorts (and replicated in another large cohort) found a more pronounced effect of obesity-related genes on weight gain among individuals with greater intake of SSB. Finally, as voiced by David Allison himself in the Associated Press report about the 3 NEJM studies:
“But until now, high-quality experiments have not conclusively shown that reducing sugary beverages would lower weight or body fat, said David Allison, a biostatistician who has done beverage research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, some of it with industry support. He said the new studies on children changed his mind and convinced him that limiting sweet drinks can make a difference.”

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm 0