We’re used to thinking twice about the calories in cookies, fries, or potato chips, but what about the soda we drink alongside? There are plenty of calories in a sugar-sweetened beverage like cola, but drinking soda doesn’t make you feel full, in the way eating a burger satisfies your appetite. So it’s easy to take on more calories than you need.
There’s been plenty of research looking at different types of diet for losing weight. Until now, there haven’t been many studies investigating the effect of ‘liquid calories’ in beverages. Yet many people think soda may play a part in the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
A newly published study looked at 800 Americans trying to lose weight. It found people who reduced their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages lost more pounds than those who didn’t address this part of their diet. Researchers found that, calorie for calorie, cutting out soft drinks seems to work even better than restricting food for losing weight. For every 100 ‘solid’ (food) calories a day that people cut, they lost an average 0.1 pounds. But for every 100 ‘liquid’ calories they cut, they lost an average 0.7 pounds. Even so, if you need to lose weight, you’ll probably need to do both.
What you need to know. If you need to lose weight and you drink a lot of soda, this is a good place to start. But take care what you replace it with. Pure fruit juices and smoothies have a lot of calories, even if they don’t have sugar added. Plain water is the best bet for weight loss. To find out more, see our information on obesity.
—Anna Sayburn, patient editor, BMJ Group
ConsumerReportsHealth.org has partnered with The BMJ Group to monitor the latest medical research and assess the evidence to help you decide which news you should use.
Read more on cutting down on liquid calories, find out why some people gain weight more easily than others, and see our Treatment Ratings (subscribers only) for more on how diet, exercise, and therapy can fight obesity.