Background: Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with overweight in observational studies. A possible explanation is that liquid sugars do not satiate and that their intake is not compensated by reduced caloric intake from other foods. However, evidence from intervention studies for this hypothesis is inconclusive because previous studies were not blinded. Hence results may have been influenced by expectations and behavioral cues rather than by physiological mechanisms.
Methods: We designed the Double-blind, Randomized INtervention study in Kids (DRINK) to examine the effect on body weight of covertly replacing sugar-sweetened by sugar-free beverages. Children were only eligible if they habitually drank sugar-sweetened beverages. We recruited 642 healthy children (mean age 8.2, range 4.8-11.9). We designed, tested and produced custom-made beverages containing 10% sugar and sugar-free beverages with the same sweet taste and look. Children receive one 250 mL can of study beverage daily for 18 months. We perform body measurements at 0, 6, 12 and 18 months. The primary outcome is the z-score of BMI for age. The maximum predicted difference in this score between groups is 0.72, which corresponds with a difference in body weight of 2.3 kg.
Discussion: The double-blind design eliminates behavioral factors that affect body weight. If children gain less body fat when drinking sugar-free than when drinking sugar-sweetened beverages that would show that liquid sugar indeed bypasses biological satiation mechanisms. It would also suggest that a reduction in liquid sugars could decrease body fat more effectively than reduction of other calorie sources.
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