Beverages Influence Body Mass More Than Food
> 4/2/2009 3:57:14 PM

The newest trend in weight-loss theory is a bit of a golden oldie: drink more water. Soda-and energy drink opponents stand vindicated by a new study suggesting that, contrary to popular opinion, the fluids that one consumes every day may have an even greater effect on body mass readings than solid foods.

The most powerful player in this equation is sweeteners, be they sugar, high fructose corn syrup or other artificial additives used to make designer sodas and juices even tastier. According to the results of a newly released longitudinal study, liquid calories expand the body’s total mass at a faster rate than solid calories. The Johns Hopkins survey followed 810 adults, aged 25-79, for 18 months as some of them made dietary changes in order to lose weight. Working from body weight measurements and dietary diagrams collected at the study’s start, researchers performed regular, randomized phone check-ups in which subjects listed the foods and drinks they’d consumed in the previous 24 hours.  

Their conclusions hold sweetened beverages most directly responsible for our population’s weight problems. While decreasing calorie counts of all kinds were linked to minor weight loss, the only subjects who lost significant amounts of weight after 6 months were those who cut back on their consumption of liquid calories in the form of sodas, energy drinks with added sugar and various fruit punch and juice blends (we should emphasize the fact that this list does not include pure 100% fruit and vegetable juices, which contain only naturally-occurring sugars). Reduced liquid calorie consumption led to more rapid weight loss than the equivalent reduction in solid calories consumed, supporting to the conclusion that many people don’t realize that sugary drinks are ultimately more damaging to their bodies than many of the foods they eat. Even more damning is the fact that the growth of the western world’s obesity epidemic has nearly mirrored increases in the overall consumption of sugary beverages.  

Drinking fewer of these suspect treats is clearly a must for those looking to slim up. And the easiest way to reach that goal is to drink water in place of soda, sweet tea or any form of caffeinated energy drink. A peculiar German study also suggests that encouraging school kids to drink more water each school day might reduce their likelihood of future weight problems. Researchers conducted a large-scale experiment in 32 German grade schools, quizzing students about their weight and consumption habits before installing additional water fountains in target schools and distributing individual bottles to push the kids at said schools to drink more water each day. Teachers also announced the health benefits of water in class on a regular basis. Results were striking: comparative weight stats started out even, but children at the target schools were 30% less likely to be overweight by school year’s end.

Some obvious questions arise from the study’s results: why did these German students lose weight (or gain weight less quickly) when their cumulative consumption of sugary drinks didn’t decrease all that much? The answer is that children with some weight concerns were those most likely to be affected by the experiment; borderline-overweight kids who grab a glass of water at lunch instead of a sweetened juice or soda are less likely to fall over that line in the near future. The message for the rest of us is clear: remind yourself to drink a few glasses of water every day. While the 8-glasses-every-24-hours standard has been effectively refuted through research, it’s nearly impossible to drink too much water. So think again before ordering your next double-shot caramel mocha latte. Or at least forego the whipped cream.

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