Research Study on Obesity

UCLA study directly links soda with obesity

  • By Kim Lamb Gregory
  • Posted September 17, 2009 at 4:10 p.m. - From the Ventura County Star

“Bubbling Over: Soda Consumption and Its Link to Obesity in California” was conducted in 2005 by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. It involved 4,000 adolescents and 43,000 adults.

Among the key findings of the study are: 10.7 million Californians drink one soda or sugar-sweetened beverage a day; 41 percent of California children, 62 percent of adolescents and 24 percent of adults drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day.

Adults in this category are 27 percent more likely to be overweight. In Ventura County, 58.4 percent of adults are overweight, and almost 25 percent of adults in the county drink at least one soda a day.

Drawing a link between the non-nutritive, dense, calorie count in sodas and obesity may be common sense for most, but Dr. Susan Babey, the research scientist who led the study, said it is quantifiable evidence about the amount of soda Californians drink and the level of obesity.

“This is the first time we’re drawing a link between soda consumption and obesity,” said Babey, who has a PhD in psychology and specializes in obesity.

Obesity can lead to Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation. Obesity-related illnesses cost the state $41 billion annually, twice the amount reported in 2000.

The release of the study prompted state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, to call for a hearing by the Select Committee on Obesity and Diabetes. Padilla wants the committee to hear from experts about the soda-obesity link. He plans to convene the committee in early November, which is American Diabetes Month.

“California can and should do more to educate parents,” Padilla said in a press release. “I don’t think that most parents truly appreciate the role soda pop has in causing weight gain.”

Padilla said it’s unfortunate that soda is generally cheaper than healthier beverages, such as milk,

The senior vice president for science policy at the American Beverage Association, Dr. Maureen Storey, said the study draws a link, but not a cause-effect relationship between soda consumption and obesity. She believes soda has been unfairly demonized.

“Too many calories from anything — it can be the healthiest thing in the world — if you’re consuming too many calories and not burning it off, you’re going to gain weight,” said Storey, whose doctorate is in nutrition.

The specific problem with soda and sugary drinks, Babey said, is that Californians are drinking soda like water, and soda has no significant nutritional value.

Ventura pediatrician Dr. Heather Nichols, who also runs a clinic in Santa Paula, gave a presentation Sept. 9 to physicians at the Ventura County Medical Center about her research and experience with local kids.

“They’re drinking more sugar,” she said, “sugar, sugar, sugar.”

Nichols is alarmed over the number of obese children she sees with hypertension, high tryglyceride levels, insulin resistance and other obesity-related problems. She believes a lot of it can be linked to sugary drinks.

Too many sugary drinks can lead to “leptin resistance,” she said. Leptin helps tell your body it is satisfied. Develop a resistance to it, and your sugar craving increases, she said.

For kids, she recommends no juice until they are 2, and then, no more than 4 ounces a day of 100 percent fruit juice. Soda? Forget about it.

“I think kids should never be drinking soda. Soda is really rotten for us,” she said.