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Nearly all ways of losing body fat require a lot of effort and discipline, which is why there are few people who actually win the fight against overweight. But a study that researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published in the American Journal of Clinical North provides some hope, because replacing an ordinary soft drink with a light-equivalent is something everyone can do.

The average American teenager gets ten percent of his daily energy requirement from soft drinks. That’s about 250-280 kcal per day. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):372-81.] The health effects of this eating pattern are negative. Studies have shown that people who drink one or more glasses of soft drinks per day are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease [Circulation. 2007 Jul 31;116(5):480-8.]. And overweight of course too. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;84(2):274-88.]

You’d expect that you’d automatically lose weight if you took soft drinks out of your diet, but you wouldn’t know for sure until you try it for yourself. And that’s exactly what researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did.

The Americans did an experiment with 318 overweight people. All of them drank soft drinks. The researchers divided them over three groups, all approximately of the same size.

The first group drank water [WA] instead of soft drinks; the second got cola light [DB]. The subjects in the second group were asked to replace at least two glasses a day of sugar-containing soft drinks with light versions or water.

A control group was also given intensive information. [AC] The participants in this group were weighed once a month, and they were given instructions on how to read the labels, what a healthy weight is and that energy is good for burning energy. The researchers did not give the subjects in the control group any targets to aim for.

The subjects in the control group did change their lifestyle as a result of the coaching they were given. The effect of this on their bodyweight is shown below. The control group started to eat more consciously and more healthily.


Replacing soft drinks with water or light soft drinks had more effect. The subjects in the WA and DB groups had lost about two kilograms of bodyweight.

“On a population level, replacement of caloric beverages with noncaloric alternatives could be an important public health message”, schrijven de onderzoekers. “Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with either diet beverages or water, based on the consumers’ preference and ability to adhere, appears warranted at this stage of research on the basis of these findings. Future research should examine long-term health effects of consuming either beverage as a replacement for caloric beverages before specific recommendations can be made.”

Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main results of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trial.

Tate DF, Turner-McGrievy G, Lyons E, Stevens J, Erickson K, Polzien K, Diamond M, Wang X, Popkin B.

Department of Nutrition, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7440, USA. dtate@unc.edu


Replacement of caloric beverages with noncaloric beverages may be a simple strategy for promoting modest weight reduction; however, the effectiveness of this strategy is not known.

We compared the replacement of caloric beverages with water or diet beverages (DBs) as a method of weight loss over 6 mo in adults and attention controls (ACs).

Overweight and obese adults [n = 318; BMI (in kg/m(2)): 36.3 ± 5.9; 84% female; age (mean ± SD): 42 ± 10.7 y; 54% black] substituted noncaloric beverages (water or DBs) for caloric beverages (?200 kcal/d) or made dietary changes of their choosing (AC) for 6 mo.

In an intent-to-treat analysis, a significant reduction in weight and waist circumference and an improvement in systolic blood pressure were observed from 0 to 6 mo. Mean (±SEM) weight losses at 6 mo were -2.5 ± 0.45% in the DB group, -2.03 ± 0.40% in the Water group, and -1.76 ± 0.35% in the AC group; there were no significant differences between groups. The chance of achieving a 5% weight loss at 6 mo was greater in the DB group than in the AC group (OR: 2.29; 95% CI: 1.05, 5.01; P = 0.04). A significant reduction in fasting glucose at 6 mo (P = 0.019) and improved hydration at 3 (P = 0.0017) and 6 (P = 0.049) mo was observed in the Water group relative to the AC group. In a combined analysis, participants assigned to beverage replacement were 2 times as likely to have achieved a 5% weight loss (OR: 2.07; 95% CI: 1.02, 4.22; P = 0.04) than were the AC participants.

Replacement of caloric beverages with noncaloric beverages as a weight-loss strategy resulted in average weight losses of 2% to 2.5%. This strategy could have public health significance and is a simple, straightforward message. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01017783.

PMID: 22301929 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301929