Children who consume sweet soft drinks are not necessarily heavier than those who avoid, new research suggests.
The study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, found no direct link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and the higher total energy consumption of four to ten years.
There were also no significant differences between the body mass index (BMI) of children who consumed sweet soft drinks and those who did not.
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The study suggests that a sugar tax that came into force last year "may not be the most effective tactic" in combating childhood obesity.
The University of Nottingham team analyzed survey data of approximately 1,300 children aged 4 to 10 years from 2008 to 2016, including a four-day diary for food.
A total of 61% of children drank at least one sweet soft drink during this period, but more than three quarters (78%) of this group did not exceed the total recommended daily calorie intake.
There were no significant differences in the BMI of alcohol and soft drink consumers.
Overall, 78% of children consumed more than the recommended daily amount of added sugars, including those found in fruit juices and confectionery products.
This figure was 68 percent among consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.
"The high intake of added sugars was not directly related to high energy consumption," said Ola Anabtawi, who led the research.
"For this reason, relying on a one-sided approach to tackling childhood obesity in the form of a soft drink tax may not be the most effective tactic."
She added: "Our findings show that drinking beverages sweetened with sugar is not a special behavior for children with higher body weight.
"Conversely, a framework sugar reduction to tackle obesity could reinforce negative stereotypes around" unhealthy diets ".
"Instead, policies should focus on those children whose consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages significantly increases their total sugar intake combined with other public health interventions."
Katarina Kos of the University of Exeter commented on the findings and warned that the effects of sugar intake could only be seen in children later in life.
"The study should not be seen as a reassurance that we can relax about sugar-sweetened beverages, but the authors say it emphasizes the complexity [the] environment, ”she said.
"Children do less than before, so they need less calories and less energy, regardless of source."