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Studies Show Soft Drink Consumption by School-Aged Children Is Not Linked to Obesity, Poor Diet Quality or Lack of Exercisewww.ceresnet.org

(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- April 3, 2001 . . . Four new studies by nutrition researchers from the Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy presented today at the Experimental Biology 01 annual meeting demonstrate that soft drink consumption by children is not linked to pediatric obesity, poor diet quality, or a lack of exercise. The studies were based on analyses of data from two national surveys: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (CSFII).

"Our results provide important information on a controversial and often misunderstood subject. These studies provide new insights into what role soft drinks are playing in children's lifestyles. At the end of the day, one must conclude that all the 'hype' about soft drink consumption and obesity is simply not supported by the data when measured by several of the most important nutritional parameters such as body mass index (BMI), exercise, and calcium intake," said Maureen Storey, Ph.D., Associate Director at the Georgetown Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, and leader of the research team that performed the analyses.

Dr. Storey continued, "First, a thorough review of the data on 12- to 16-year-olds shows no relationship between the consumption of regular carbonated soft drinks and BMI, a measurement for obesity. Soft drink consumption is not linked to adolescent obesity, challenging many misconceptions. In addition, our study confirms the importance of social exercise programs and team sports in the prevention of obesity in teenage girls. As educators, we need to stress the vital role of physical activity for all students, not just the best athletes chosen for the varsity sports teams.

"Second, our data demonstrate that that soft drink consumption is not displacing calcium in the diets of children. According to our analysis of the CSFII database, there is, in fact, a statistically significant, very small but positive association between soft drinks and calcium consumption. In other words, 2- to 20-year-olds who drink carbonated soft drinks consumed slightly more calcium than similar aged kids who did not drink carbonated soft drinks. Nevertheless, whether it's our kids today or 25 years ago, they are not consuming enough calcium from foods and beverages. We need to emphasize ways to boost calcium intake from low-fat milk, fortified beverages, high-calcium foods, or a supplement. It is wrong, however, to suggest that soft drink consumption has reduced calcium intake.

"Third, our study illustrates that regular carbonated soft drinks are not linked to the overall quality of an individual's diet, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthy Eating Index (HEI), the measure USDA uses to assess overall diet quality.

"Fourth, we examined the association between carbonated soft drink consumption and exercise levels. Our results show that teens who consume carbonated beverages are as active or more active than those who do not drink carbonated beverages. Indeed, teen-age boys who consume more carbonated beverages exercise more. Older teens were less physically active than younger children. African-American and Hispanic teens were less active than Caucasians."

All data produced by the Georgetown study meet the rigorous scientific standards for evaluation, established by the scientific community. Research projects are conducted in accordance with the policies of Georgetown University and the Center's Statement of Principles. The Center promotes objectivity in its research and related activities through specific measures aimed at ensuring that the design, conduct, and reporting of its research is not biased by a conflicting financial interest(s), including financial disclosure. These policies are similar to those of all public and private universities engaged in research.

The Georgetown Food and Nutrition Policy Center's work was supported by an unrestricted research grant from the National Soft Drink Association.

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The Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (the "Center") is a Washington, D.C.-based research and educational institution dedicated to advancing rational, science-based food and nutrition policy. It is a financially independent center associated with Georgetown University. Through its programs of research, outreach, and teaching, the Center examines complex, and oftentimes contentious, issues facing government policymakers, regulators, agribusinesses, and food manufacturers.