OBJECTIVE. The role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in promoting obesity is controversial. Observational data link SSB consumption with excessive weight gain; however, randomized, controlled trials are lacking and necessary to resolve the debate. We conducted a pilot study to examine the effect of decreasing SSB consumption on body weight.
METHODS. We randomly assigned 103 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years who regularly consumed SSBs to intervention and control groups. The intervention, 25 weeks in duration, relied largely on home deliveries of noncaloric beverages to displace SSBs and thereby decrease consumption. Change in SSB consumption was the main process measure, and change in body mass index (BMI) was the primary end point.
RESULTS. All of the randomly assigned subjects completed the study. Consumption of SSBs decreased by 82% in the intervention group and did not change in the control group. Change in BMI, adjusted for gender and age, was 0.07 ± 0.14 kg/m2 (mean ± SE) for the intervention group and 0.21 ± 0.15 kg/m2 for the control group. The net difference, −0.14 ± 0.21 kg/m2, was not significant overall. However, baseline BMI was a significant effect modifier. Among the subjects in the upper baseline-BMI tertile, BMI change differed significantly between the intervention (−0.63 ± 0.23 kg/m2) and control (+0.12 ± 0.26 kg/m2) groups, a net effect of −0.75 ± 0.34 kg/m2. The interaction between weight change and baseline BMI was not attributable to baseline consumption of SSBs.
CONCLUSIONS. A simple environmental intervention almost completely eliminated SSB consumption in a diverse group of adolescents. The beneficial effect on body weight of reducing SSB consumption increased with increasing baseline body weight, offering additional support for American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines to limit SSB consumption.