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Soda, juice linked to overweight preschoolers

A new study in "Pediatrics" found sugary drinks

A new study in "Pediatrics" found sugary drinks and juice are linked to weight gain among 5-year-olds. Credit: Handout

It's no secret that sugary drinks can lead to obesity, but a new study published in "Pediatrics" found surprising evidence linking it to weight gain among young children.

According to research from University of Virginia in Charlottesville, 5-year-olds who drink sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks or juices daily are more likely to be obese than those who drink the sweet stuff less often.

Researchers studied a group of 9,600 children born in 2001 and surveyed their parents when the kids were 2, 4 and 5-years-old on how often their kids drank sugary beverages and watched TV. At each survey visit, the child and mother were weighed.

About 43 percent of 5-year-olds who drank at least one soda, juice or sports drink daily and watched at least two hours of TV each day were more likely to be obese than those who drank the beverages less frequently or not at all, according to a Reuters Health article.

"Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time," said study author Mark DeBoer.

According to Reuters, about 15 percent of 5-year-olds in the study were obese, if they had a body mass index — a measure of weight in relation to height — above the 95th percentile for their age and gender, as calculated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, researchers noted there was no link between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity among 2-year-olds.

The American Beverage Association also weighed in on the study's findings to Reuters Health: "Overweight and obesity are caused by an imbalance between calories consumed from all foods and beverages (total diet) and calories burned (physical activity). Therefore, it is misleading to suggest that beverage consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain among this group of children, especially at a time in their lives when they would normally gain weight and grow."

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