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Another Day, Another Soda Study continued...

“It was just an abstract presented at a meeting. It hasn’t even been published yet,” Gardener tells WebMD. “We are still working on the analysis. I don’t think the level of press attention it received would have been warranted even if it was a published paper.”

Gardener's team attempted to control for known heart attack and stroke risk factors, such as poor diet and lack of exercise, but she concedes that these factors could have influenced the findings.

Purdue University behavioral sciences professor Susan Swithers. PhD, had a similar experience in 2004, following the publication of her study in rats suggesting that no-calorie sweeteners like those in diet sodas increase appetite.

Swithers says she was shocked by the amount of news coverage her study received.

“Frankly, we were stunned,” she tells WebMD. “It really was a small study.”

Weighty Issue

The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sees sugary drinks as a major factor in the obesity epidemic and favors taxing them.

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson, PhD, says sugary soft drinks deserve to be singled out in the battle against obesity because they are the biggest single source of empty calories in the American diet.

“According to the USDA, 16% of calories in the typical American’s diet come from refined sugars and half of those calories come from beverages with added sugar,” Jacobson says. “Sodas used to be an occasional treat, but now they are part of the culture.”

New York University professor of nutrition and food studies Marion Nestle, PhD, says there is plenty of evidence that sodas have contributed to America's growing girth, especially among children.

Nestle says pediatricians who treat overweight children tell her that many of their patients take in 1,000 to 2,000 calories a day from soft drinks alone.

“Some children drink sodas all day long,” she says. “They are getting all of the calories they need in a day from soft drinks, so it’s no wonder they are fat.”

“The first thing that anyone should do if they are trying to lose weight," Nestle says, "is eliminate or cut down on soft drinks."

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