A randomized trial of sugar-sweetened beverages and adolescent body weight

N Engl J Med. 2012 Oct 11;367(15):1407-16. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1203388. Epub 2012 Sep 21.


Background: Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may cause excessive weight gain. We aimed to assess the effect on weight gain of an intervention that included the provision of noncaloric beverages at home for overweight and obese adolescents.

Methods: We randomly assigned 224 overweight and obese adolescents who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages to experimental and control groups. The experimental group received a 1-year intervention designed to decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, with follow-up for an additional year without intervention. We hypothesized that the experimental group would gain weight at a slower rate than the control group.

Results: Retention rates were 97% at 1 year and 93% at 2 years. Reported consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was similar at baseline in the experimental and control groups (1.7 servings per day), declined to nearly 0 in the experimental group at 1 year, and remained lower in the experimental group than in the control group at 2 years. The primary outcome, the change in mean body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) at 2 years, did not differ significantly between the two groups (change in experimental group minus change in control group, -0.3; P=0.46). At 1 year, however, there were significant between-group differences for changes in BMI (-0.57, P=0.045) and weight (-1.9 kg, P=0.04). We found evidence of effect modification according to ethnic group at 1 year (P=0.04) and 2 years (P=0.01). In a prespecified analysis according to ethnic group, among Hispanic participants (27 in the experimental group and 19 in the control group), there was a significant between-group difference in the change in BMI at 1 year (-1.79, P=0.007) and 2 years (-2.35, P=0.01), but not among non-Hispanic participants (P>0.35 at years 1 and 2). The change in body fat as a percentage of total weight did not differ significantly between groups at 2 years (-0.5%, P=0.40). There were no adverse events related to study participation.

Conclusions: Among overweight and obese adolescents, the increase in BMI was smaller in the experimental group than in the control group after a 1-year intervention designed to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, but not at the 2-year follow-up (the prespecified primary outcome). (Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00381160.).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Dietary Sucrose*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Weight Gain*


  • Dietary Sucrose

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00381160