Latino teens who were overweight or obese showed particularly strong and enduring benefits from switching to calorie-free beverages: After one year, they were an average of 14 pounds lighter than their peers who didn't change their drinking habits, and after two years they were 20 pounds lighter.
"For certain populations, paying attention to these relatively simple things, such as sugar-sweetened beverage intake, can really have an impact," said Dr. David M. Harlan, a leading expert on obesity and diabetes at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The third study, which linked regular consumption of sugary drinks with genetic differences in adults, may lend support to a growing belief on the part of obesity researchers that some calories matter more than others. While an individual's weight may be determined by comparing calories consumed and calories expended, some experts believe calories from particular sources — including super-sweetened drinks — may have effects beyond the simple units of energy they contain, Harlan said.
The findings, presented Friday at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society in San Antonio, come as momentum builds for a raft of controversial measures that aim to drive down consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.