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expert reaction to conference poster about children’s sugary drink consumption and obesity, and commenting on a sugary drinks tax

In a poster presentation at the European Congress on Obesity scientists report finding an association between body mass index and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.


Dr Amelia Lake, Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist, Durham University, said:

“In this study of over 700 Irish young people the authors found an association between increased soft drink intake and body mass index (BMI).  Those young people who had a higher intake of greater than 200mls of sugar sweetened drinks were more likely to be overweight or obese.  They also found a trend of decreasing BMI with falling soft drink consumption.

“Measuring diet in any age-group is tricky – especially in children. This study used food diaries – which are a useful and detailed tool, additionally the authors collected data from a large number of children.

“Diet in young people is of great importance as behaviours are likely to track from adolescence through to adulthood.

“The authors suggest that their research supports the introduction of taxing of sugary drinks.  Given the significant association between consumption of these drinks and weight gain – it is a valid point!

“Addressing sugar sweetened soft drink intake on its own will not solve the obesity problem, but it is a significant part of the jigsaw.”


Prof. Christine Williams, Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Reading, said:

“These preliminary findings from a carefully conducted study are interesting.  They show higher intakes of sugar sweetened drinks in obese than normal weight children and approximately 50kcals additional energy from these drinks in the obese group.  The relationship between intakes of sweetened drinks and body weight are suggested to support a positive role for a sugar tax in reducing rates of obesity in children.”


* Poster title = ‘Consumption of sugar sweetened drinks: evidence to support government policy of taxation as part of a suite of measures to address obesity’ by Janas M Harrington et al will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal. There is no paper.


Declared interests

Dr Amelia Lake: “Paid employment or self-employment – Durham University & Fuse.

Grant funding – NIHR SPHR (current).

Voluntary appointments – BNF scientific committee.

Memberships – BNF, BDA, Nutrition Society, Association for Nutritionists, ASO.”

Prof. Christine Williams: “Member of Governing bodies of the Institute of Food Research and Scottish Rural University College; Member of the British Nutrition Foundation Council and Chair of the Board of Trustees; Chair of the BBSRC Agriculture and Food Security Strategy Advisory Panel; Member of the Science Advisory Council for Wales; Member of EUFIC Scientific Advisory Board; Member Supervisory Board of EIT Food.”

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