HealthDay News — Children aged 5 years and younger who consume sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda or sports drinks are more likely to become overweight or obese, study findings indicate.

“Pediatricians and parents should discourage sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to help avoid potential unhealthy weight gain in young children,” Mark D. DeBoer, MD, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and colleagues reported in Pediatrics.

Although sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has been tightly linked to weight status among older children, results from studies examining the relationship in younger children have been mixed. To better understand how sugary drinks affect weight in kids aged 2 to 5 years, the DeBoer and colleagues assessed consumption patterns and BMI z scores among 9,600 children in this age group.

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The researchers found a significant association between greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and BMI z score at 4 and 5 years of age but not at age 2.

Compared with infrequent drinkers or nondrinkers, 5-year-olds who regularly consumed sugary beverages were at significantly greater risk of being obese (odds ratio 1.43, 95% CI: 1.10–1.85, P<0.01), and 2-year-olds drinking sugary beverages were significantly more likely to have greater increases in BMI z score over the next two years (P <0.05).

“Similar to what is seen among older children, children aged 2 to 5 years drinking sugar-sweetened beverages demonstrate both prospective and cross-sectional correlations with higher BMI z score,” DeBoer and colleagues conclude. “From a public health standpoint, strong consideration should be made toward policy changes leading to decreases in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among children.”


  1. DeBoer MD et al. Pediatrics. 2013; doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0570.