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Replacing soft drinks with water may equal weight loss

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Wednesday April 8, 2009 (foodconsumer.org) -- We’ve all heard the grim news: today’s kids are more likely to be overweight than ever before. CNN recently reported that 1 out of 5 preschoolers is considered obese. Some states, such as Arkansas, are removing snacks and soft drinks from school vending machines. Lack of exercise and an abundance of junk food have certainly taken their toll on the physical health and well being of our children.

Yet some studies suggest that reversing the trend among adolescents may not have to be an all out interventionist approach.

According to experts, the average adolescent drinks 235 empty calories per day, in the form of sugar laden soft drinks and “juice” drinks. A recent Dutch study shows that kids who give up sugary drinks for water do not “trade up” by eating more snacks. Furthermore, of all of the health changes teens can make, they are more likely to give up sugary drinks than they are to let go of snacks and/or begin an exercise program.

Another study by the University of Southern California showed similar results. In that particular experiment, 54 overweight, adolescent Latinos volunteered to take part in a 4 month study. One third of the kids did nothing in the form of lifestyle change, 1/3 took one nutrition class per week, and the other 1/3 took the nutrition class along with a strength training class.

More than 55 percent of the kids decreased their sugar intake by 47 grams a day (and this percentage includes children who were part of the control group that was assigned nothing), or the equivalent of one can of soda. The ones who cut down on the sweet drinks had healthier blood sugar levels; many of them also consumed more fiber, which resulted in a loss of 10% of visceral fat (the fat that surrounds the organs).

Finally, a third study led by Amika Singh of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam placed 1108 twelve and thirteen year olds in an 11 month program consisting of 11 classes on nutrition and physical education. A great majority of the kids cut down their soft drink consumption by 10 ounces per day.

Like the Dutch study cited above, Singh and her colleagues discovered that the kids who took part in the study didn’t snack less or exercise more. But, when it comes to weight loss, baby steps may lead to longer lasting results.

(By Rachel Stockton, and edited by Heather Kelley)

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