Soft drink intake is associated with weight gain, regardless of physical activity levels: the health workers cohort study

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2020 May 12;17(1):60. doi: 10.1186/s12966-020-00963-2.


Background: While soft drink intake is positively associated with weight gain, no previous study has investigated whether leisure-time physical activity modifies this association. We estimated the association between soft drink intake and body weight, and explored if this association differed by levels of leisure-time physical activity.

Methods: We used data from the health workers cohort study, a prospective study of Mexican adults (20 to 85y old), including 1268 health workers and their families, who were assessed at baseline (2004-2006) and follow-up (2010-2012). We assessed soft drink intake (cola and flavored soda) using a validated food frequency questionnaire. We measured leisure-time physical activity using a self-report questionnaire, and categorized according to the 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. Body weight was measured by trained personnel. The association between changes in soft drink intake and weight change, and if such association varied by levels of physical activity was estimated through fixed-effect models.

Results: An increase in one serving per day of soft drink was associated with 0.10 kg (95% CI 0.00, 0.19) increase in weight per year. This association was not modified by leisure-time physical activity, as demonstrated by the magnitude of the coefficient of the interaction between soft drink, leisure-time physical activity, and time (- 0.03 kg, 95% CI - 0.27 to 0.21); people who complied with the WHO physical activity recommendations gained 0.36 kg/year per serving of soft drink, compared to 0.48 kg/year for people without sufficient physical activity.

Conclusions: Soft drink intake was associated with weight gain. Leisure-time physical activity did not modify the association between soft drink intake and weight gain. This finding challenges the idea that leisure-time physical activity is sufficient to counterbalance weight gain associated to soft drink intake.

Keywords: Physical activity; Soft drink intake; Weight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Weight*
  • Carbonated Beverages*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self Report
  • Weight Gain*