They reported that excessive consumption of sugar sweetened drinks may be a key reason for the troubling increase in childhood obesity.
A commentary in the The Journal of Pediatrics (May), written by Dr Robert Murray and colleagues from Ohio State University, the University of Vermont, and the University of California, San Diego, reviewed previous research concerning the role of soft drinks in childhood obesity.
They found, perhaps not unsurprisingly, that there was a strong correlation between soft drink consumption and the risk of childhood obesity.
Dr. Murray concluded that "the typical teen consumes approximately two-12 ounce cans of soft drinks per day, containing 300 calories and 20 teaspoons of sugar."
Hence, although current guidelines recommend a limit of 10 per cent of daily calories from added sugars, they actually account for 18-20 per cent of children's daily calories, with soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks accounting for over 40 per cent of these total added sugars.
Moreover, by choosing soft drinks or sweetened fruit drinks instead of milk, children may suffer from decreased levels of protein, calcium, zinc, and vitamins A and C.
The researchers pointed out that while the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health has stated that the consumption of soft drinks in schools can lead to obesity, one study showed that out of 523 school districts, half had a contract with a soft drink company. Furthermore, two-thirds of those districts were given incentives by the soft drink company and nearly 80 per cent received a percentage of the soft drink sales.
Dr Murray recommended that schools concentrate on providing more nutritious lower calorie beverage choices in their vending machines such as milk, water, and 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices.
"Altering the energy (calorie) gap by 100 calories a day - which, ironically, is the equivalent of one 8-oz. serving of a sweetened soft drink -would prevent excessive weight gain in most Americans," he said.
This weight gain needs to be stopped as scientists have estimated that 25 percent of obese children show signs of glucose intolerance and "a child who is diagnosed with type II diabetes mellitus at age 10 years may lose between 17 and 26 life-years to the disease."