Objective. To examine the association between sweet drink consumption and overweight among preschool children.
Methods. A retrospective cohort design was used to examine the association between sweet drink consumption and overweight at follow-up among 10904 children who were aged 2 and 3 years and had height, weight, and Harvard Service Food Frequency Questionnaire data collected between January 1999 and December 2001 and height and weight data collected 1 year later. Sweet drinks included vitamin C-containing juices, other juices, fruit drinks, and sodas as listed on the Harvard Service Food Frequency Questionnaire. Logistic regression was used to adjust for age; gender; race/ethnicity; birth weight; and intake of high-fat foods, sweet foods, and total calories. Results were stratified by baseline BMI.
Results. Among children who were normal or underweight at baseline (BMI <85th percentile), the association between sweet drink consumption and development of overweight was positive but not statistically significant. Children who were at risk for overweight at baseline (BMI 85th–<95th percentile) and consumed 1 to <2 drinks/day, 2 to <3 drinks/day, and ≥3 drinks/day were, respectively, 2.0 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.3–3.2), 2.0 (95% CI: 1.2–3.2), and 1.8 (95% CI: 1.1–2.8) times as likely to become overweight as the referent (<1 drink/day). Children who were overweight at baseline (BMI ≥95th percentile) and consumed 1 to <2 drinks/day, 2 to <3 drinks/day, and ≥3 drinks/day were, respectively, 2.1, 2.2, and 1.8 times as likely to remain overweight as the referent.
Conclusions. Reducing sweet drink consumption might be 1 strategy to manage the weight of preschool children. Additional studies are needed to understand the mechanism by which such consumption contributes to overweight.