News from Shape Up America!
May 2007
Shape Up America! Newsletter


The Soda Wars
by Barbara J. Moore, PhD
The possible role of soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages in the development of childhood obesity has been controversial. While many people assume there is a connection, not all studies have implicated soda as a cause of childhood obesity or as a health risk. That led researchers at Yale University to conduct a review of the research on soft drink consumption and its effects on nutrition and health.1

In the recently published meta-analysis of 88 studies (a meta-analysis is a specific type of analysis that permits the summation of the data from a number of studies), the Yale investigators found that soft drink consumption was linked to greater caloric intake and increased body weight. Drinking soft drinks was also associated with lower intakes of milk and calcium and with an increased risk of diabetes. Their analysis suggested that the design of the studies significantly influenced the results. Studies that used a stronger experimental design (i.e., experimental and longitudinal studies) were more likely to find an association than studies of weaker design (i.e., cross-sectional and observational studies). The researchers concluded that population-based strategies to prevent childhood obesity by limiting soft drink consumption are "strongly supported" by the available scientific evidence.

The authors also found a link between soft drink consumption and type 2 diabetes. For example, in one study of 91,249 women followed for 8 years, those who drank one or more servings of soft drinks daily were twice as likely to develop diabetes as those who drank less than one serving per month. When diet drinks replaced sugar-sweetened beverages, the effect disappeared, suggesting that the increased risk was specific to consuming sugared soft drinks.

Only two of the 88 studies were designed to directly test whether reductions in soda consumption would improve body mass index (BMI). One study targeted soft drink consumption in 644 children ages 7 to 11 years from six schools in southwest England.2 The main objective was to discourage consumption of carbonated beverages and promote the benefits of a balanced, healthy diet that included drinking water. For the test group, a trained health educator gave a one-hour class each term, for a total of four sessions per school year. Drink diaries covering two weekdays and one weekend day prepared at the start and the end of the study showed that carbonated soft drink consumption decreased slightly but significantly in the intervention group as compared to the control group. Height and weight were measured every six months. After one year, the percentage of overweight and obese children increased in the control group by 7.5% and decreased in the intervention group by 0.2%. However, this study has been criticized because the documented decrease in soft drink consumption was very small (~50 ml, or about 1½ oz, per day).

The second study consisted of 103 teens, ages 13 to 18 years, who consumed at least 12 oz. of soft drinks or other sugar-sweetened beverages daily.3 Calorie-free soda was delivered to the homes of the teens in the intervention group for 25 weeks. They received written instructions on how to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and monthly phone calls to reinforce instructions, answer questions and address concerns. They also received refrigerator magnets with messages related to weight control, tooth decay, hunger, misleading beverage labels and advertisements. The teens in the control group were asked to continue their usual beverage consumption habits for 25 weeks.

In this study, consumption of sugared soft drinks decreased by 82% in the intervention group and was unchanged in the control group. Change in BMI was not different between the two groups as a whole. However, an analysis of the heaviest subjects in the two groups showed a greater beneficial effect of reduced soda consumption in the intervention group compared to the heaviest subjects in the control group.

Because of the complexity of obesity and the many factors contributing to overweight, there is a low likelihood that just one change (such as reducing sugar-sweetened beverages) would have a beneficial impact on weight gain. Nonetheless, the findings of these two studies support the need for further research on the value of reducing soft drinks as a strategy for preventing obesity.

These figures illustrate the remarkable increase in sugar-sweetened soda consumption among girls ages 9 to 19 years.4 (Note: 30 grams is approximately 1 ounce.)

Summer Shape Up!
by Shape Up America!
Findings from a recent study by Ohio State University researchers were quite a surprise. This study of 5,380 children in 310 schools across America showed that children in kindergarten and first grade are packing on more pounds (i.e., greater increases in body mass index, or BMI) during the summer break than during the school year.1 The increases in BMI over the summer were greatest in Black and Hispanic children and those who were already overweight at the beginning of kindergarten. Researchers concluded that the children's school environment may actually be healthier than their summer environment.

With summer fast approaching, now is the time to think about ideas to promote healthy eating, portion control and increased physical activity for the entire family. Why not start with some great family fitness fun ideas. Our free tip sheets are available in English and Spanish at: Another idea is to aim to walk 10,000 steps a day with your child. Even if your child does not want to join you, go yourself and set a good example. For under $25, you can buy a basic pedometer — a device that clips firmly to your belt and counts your steps as you walk. Information on how to get started on a walking program is found at

If you are looking for a place to go locally that offers a variety of fitness programs and activities for people of all ages, including children, consider calling a nearby YMCA. To locate a YMCA near you, go to If you're planning a vacation, think about traveling to places where you can go hiking. Great information about hiking trails and outdoor activities in the US and Canada is available at

My Story
Are you looking for motivation to help you shed some pounds? Below, Susan offers a simple, yet sensible tip that helped her use her time wisely and lose weight.

Here is a tip I found very helpful in losing 25 pounds over about 25 weeks last spring and summer (among other adjustments). I stopped waiting for my children. I have two boys who play soccer, attend 4H meetings, need rides home from school, etc. I used to wait in my car, listening to the radio or reading. Now, I will NOT sit and wait for anyone. I get up and walk, and if I am not immediately available when they want the "taxi" ride, they can just wait. For me, the difference between 155 and 130 pounds is as different as night and day. I will never gain that weight back!

If you would like to share your personal success story and be an inspiration to others who desire to lose weight, simple use our story submission system on the SUA website.

Recipe of the Month
Adding turmeric to whole grain brown rice turns the color a rich, golden brown.
Makes 4 servings


  • 1 cup quick-cooking brown rice
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1½ cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, or as directed on package
  • ¼ cup dried apricots
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup dried cherries

    1. Cook rice according to package directions along with turmeric and, in place of water, chicken broth. When rice is tender, remove from heat and let stand, covered, about 5 minutes, to allow it to become fluffy.
    2. Meanwhile, soak dried fruit in a small bowl with enough very warm water to cover, until soft, or about 10 minutes. Drain well to remove excess water. Cut fruit into small pieces. (Scissors rather than a knife makes this chore easier.)
    3. Transfer one-half of the rice into a serving bowl. Add one-half of the fruit. Repeat with remaining rice and fruit and gently toss, using two forks or salad tongs, so that fruit is evenly distributed without compacting the rice.
    Serve with salmon, poultry, lamb or pork.

    Nutritional analysis per serving: 156 calories, less than 1 gram total fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 35 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 4 grams dietary fiber, 205 mg. sodium.

    Source: American Institute for Cancer Research,

phone: 406-686-4844

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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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