New Way to Cut Weight and Sugary Drinks
Teens Can Benefit From 'Think Before You Drink' Plan
WebMD News Archive
March 6, 2006 -- Researchers have designed a new plan to help teens cut down
on sugary drinks and possibly lose extra weight.
The plan, described in Pediatrics, has three key features:
- Home delivery of calorie-free drinks to teens' homes.
- Counseling teens by phone about choosing calorie-free drinks.
- Monthly delivery of refrigerator magnets with slogans like 'Think Before
Recently, researchers tested the plan on Boston teens. The results:
- Sugary drink intake fell 82% among teens on the plan.
- The heaviest teens on the plan had lost some weight, judging by BMI (body
The researchers included Cara Ebbeling, PhD, of the endocrinology division
of Children's Hospital Boston.
Home Delivery Test
The study included 103 Boston teens with an average BMI of about 25.
BMI is based on height and weight. In adults, a BMI of 25 to 30 is
considered overweight. Because teens are still growing, a BMI of 25 doesn't
necessarily mean a teen is overweight.
At the study's start, each teen reported drinking at least one daily sugary
drink. Those drinks included soft drinks, lemonades, iced teas, sports drinks,
punches, and juices containing less than 100% juice.
Half of the teens got the experimental drink plan for six months. For
comparison, the other teens were told to continue their usual eating and
When it comes to weight, diet (which includes drinks, as well as food) and
exercise both count.
Ebbeling's team took that into consideration. First, they taught the teens
how to estimate serving size and activity level. Then, the researchers called
the teens throughout the study to check up on diet and physical activity.
Teens on the drink plan cut their consumption of sugary drinks by 82%, the
study shows. Intake of sugary drinks didn't change for the other teens.
The drink plan may have also helped heavier teens shed some weight. Average
BMI dropped by nearly one point for the teens with the highest BMIs before
starting the drink plan.
Physical activity didn't change in either group, the study shows.
Adapting the Plan
The drink plan let teens and their parents choose from a menu of
calorie-free drinks. Choices included water and drinks with noncaloric
sweeteners. A local grocery store delivered the drinks.
Ebbeling's team is testing the plan on a larger group of students, according
to a news release from Children's Hospital Boston. Meanwhile, families may be
able to adapt the researchers' drink plan.
The experimental plan boils down to making choices in shopping and in
choosing drinks. It doesn't take an advanced degree or a special delivery
system to do that.
"The role of sugar-sweetened beverages in promoting obesity is
controversial," write Ebbeling and colleagues. They note that studies
haven't proven that sugary drinks cause obesity.
However, the researchers also point out that consumption of sugar-sweetened
drinks among U.S. teens has risen along with pediatric obesity.
The American Beverage Association, a trade group representing makers of
nonalcoholic drinks, calls obesity "a serious and complex problem that is
best addressed by living a balanced lifestyle -- consuming a variety of foods
and beverages in moderation and getting plenty of exercise."