What would happen if you banned all sugary soda beverages and asked a group of teens to try a healthier substitute? Would they rebel and demand their sugar high? Or would they find that they actually preferred the less sugary substitute?
Researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston performed exactly such an experiment recently—and lived to tell about it in the journal Pediatrics (2006; 117 , 673–80). In this randomized study, 103 teens (ages 13–18) who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) were assigned to one of two groups. The intervention group was asked to stop drinking SSBs for a period of 25 weeks; during that time, the teens in this group received weekly home deliveries of nonsweetened drinks of their choice, including water and diet beverages.
At the end of the study period, the researchers found that consumption of high-calorie drinks had decreased by about 82% in the intervention group (there was no change in the control group). More important, teens who were the most overweight at the start of the study had the most significant reductions in their body mass indexes at the end of the 25 weeks.
“A simple environmental intervention almost completely eliminated SSB consumption in a diverse group of adolescents,” the researchers concluded. “The beneficial effect on body weight of reducing SSB consumption increased with increasing baseline body weight, offering additional support for American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines to limit SSB consumption.”
This is compelling evidence that kids will partake of healthier alternatives if parents and caregivers banish SSBs from their home pantries. Plus, these findings support recent measures by schools to rid vending machines of these sugary menaces!