MADISON (WKOW) -- As we look at recent obesity statistics, researchers say a new study shows strong evidence that sugary drinks are partially to blame and that cutting back could make people healthier.
Results of several studies by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) show that drinking sugary beverages could contribute to an elevated body mass index (BMI) and an increased risk of obesity in children, adolescents and adults.
Researchers say their findings show the need to find ways to reduce the number of sugary drinks Americans consume in order to reduce the risk of obesity and related diseases. That's something the New York Board of Health is working to stop. The agency passed a rule earlier this month that will ban the sale of supersized sodas to fight weight gain.
The report says in 2011, 27.7 percent of Wisconsin residents were obese, and projects by 2030 that number will go up to 56.3 percent. Researchers say if Wisconsin residents reduced their average BMIs by just 5 percent the state would save about $12 million in healthcare costs.
Obesity can contribute to a number of health problems, like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, which doctors say are all preventable.
Pediatrician David Allen from American Family Children's Hospital says there is so much more to the obesity epidemic than just soda. Allen says while just 50 or 100 extra calories a day can mean a child gains a half pound or a pound a month, parents have to look at other factors contributing to obesity too.
"There are so many areas where we need to change things so that children can just naturally be more physically active, they can naturally be living in an environment where the food choices are healthier," says Allen.
Allen says sugary drinks just aren't necessary in a child's diet, and should be replaced by milk and water.
The American Beverage Association (ABA) has released a statement in response to the NEJM study:
"Obesity is a serious and complex public health issue facing our nation and the rest of the world, and we all must work together to solve it. We know, and science supports, that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage. Thus, studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue.
The fact remains: sugar-sweetened beverages are not driving obesity. By every measure, sugar-sweetened beverages play a small and declining role in the American diet."
Looking at the bigger picture is something Allen agrees with. He believes widespread policy change might be the only way to fully tackle the obesity issue-- addressing things like marketing, pricing and availability of products.
Allen says parents should get involved in the community and school efforts to create an overall healthy environment for their children.
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