A new study from the UK suggests that children consumption of soft drinks between age five and seven is not linked to obesity later in childhood, challenging previous studies that have targeted soft drinks as a major driver in the obesity epidemic.
The research used data from a sub-sample of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and found that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) during childhood was not associated with fatness at age nine.
Writing in the journal Nutrition, researchers from MRC Human Nutrition Research, Cambridge and the University of Bristol report that heavier children tended to consume more low-energy beverages, possibly as a result of parental attempts to curb their child's calorie intake.
"Our analysis shows no evidence for an association between SSB consumption at age 5 or 7 y and fat mass at age 9 y in this cohort of British children," wrote lead author Laura Johnson.
"In this prospective analysis the relation between consumption of low-energy beverages and high fat mass at age 9 y, which is explained by overweight at 5 and 7 y, suggests that heavier children may consume low-energy beverages as part of an ineffective weight-control program," she added.
The rate of childhood obesity is set to double by the end of the decade, says new forecasts by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). The alarming figures on childhood obesity estimate that by 2010 almost 287 million kids will be obese, and the overall obese population could rise to 700 million by 2015.
The overall number of overweight people worldwide could top two billion, said the task force - without taking account a lower overweight threshold set for Asians.
Johnson and co-workers report that 33 per cent of the five-year olds and 38 per cent the seven year olds consumed sodas, and the drink accounted for three per cent of the total energy intake for both age groups.
The researchers no evidence that consumption of the sodas at either age five or seven was associated with fatness at age nine, measured using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.