The weight of evidence suggests that soft drinks are a major issue in childhood and adolescent obesity

Timothy P Gill, Anna M Rangan and Karen L Webb
Med J Aust 2006; 184 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00233.x
Published online: 20 March 2006

There is much to be gained by reducing children’s intake of soft drinks and little — except excess weight — to be lost

Childhood obesity is a major health issue in Australia. In recent months, a number of organisations, including the Australian Medical Association,1 have released statements demanding stronger action on this issue, including a call to restrict access to and marketing of soft drinks to help reduce children’s consumption. However, the soft-drink industry rejects these proposals and argues that their product is being unfairly singled out for action. Further, many parents are confused as to why a drink they often consider to be a harmless treat should be labelled so damaging to their children’s health. In considering the suggested policy changes, it is therefore important to weigh up the information we currently have about the extent of soft-drink consumption, its impact on childhood obesity, and the potential of a reduction in consumption to contribute to improved weight control.

  • NSW Centre for Public Health Nutrition, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


  • 1. Australian Medical Association. Position Statement on Nutrition. Canberra: AMA, November 2005. Available at: (accessed Feb 2006).
  • 2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Consumption of intense sweeteners in Australia and New Zealand. Canberra: Roy Morgan Research Report, March 2004. Available at: (accessed Feb 2006).
  • 3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Nutrition Survey: foods eaten, Australia, 1995. Canberra: ABS, 1999. (Catalogue No. 4804.0.) Summary of finds available at: (accessed Feb 2006).
  • 4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Apparent consumption of foodstuffs 1997–98 and 1998–99. Canberra: ABS, 2000. (Catalogue No. 4306.0.)
  • 5. Nielsen Media Research. Coca Cola dominates drinks. B&T Grocery Market Update, 2003; 24 Oct: 22. Available at: (accessed Feb 2006).
  • 6. Harnack L, Stang J, Story M. Soft drink consumption among US children and adolescents: nutritional consequences. J Am Diet Assoc 1999; 99: 436-441.
  • 7. Berkey CS, Rockett HR, Field AE, et al. Sugar-added beverages and adolescent weight change. Obes Res 2004; 12: 778-788.
  • 8. Scragg R, Wilson N, Schaaf D, et al. Risk factors for obesity in New Zealand children aged 5-14 years: results from the 2002 national Children’s Nutrition Survey [conference paper]. Australas Epidemiol 2004; 11: 23-24.
  • 9. Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet 2001; 357: 505-508.
  • 10. Raben A, Vasilaras TH, Moller AC, Astrup A. Sucrose compared with artificial sweeteners: different effects on ad libitum food intake and body weight after 10 wk of supplementation in overweight subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 76: 721-729.
  • 11. Swinburn BA, Caterson I, Seidell JC, James WP. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of excess weight gain and obesity. Public Health Nutr 2004; 7: 123-146.
  • 12. James J, Thomas P, Cavan D, et al. Preventing childhood obesity by reducing consumption of carbonated drinks: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2004; 328: 1237-1242.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.