SCMP Saturday, February 17, 2001

Soft-drinks risk lies in weight


Health experts have warned children about drinking too many soft drinks after a US study found that just two drinks a day can give youngsters a 60 per cent increase in their chances of becoming obese.
The study, which tracked 548 children aged 11 and 12 from public schools in Massachusetts for two years and ended in May 1997, found that even one soft drink a day could make a child fat.
In Hong Kong, government statistics show people consumed 32,299,063 litres or more than 90 million cans of "sweetened or flavoured" soft drinks last year - a four per cent rise from the 30,922,977 litres or 87 million cans in 1999.
Professor Fok Tai-fai, chairman of the department of paediatrics at Chinese University, said consuming just one soft drink a day was "too much".
"We do not see soft drinks bringing any good to our health. Beside the health concern, sugar can cause tooth decay. Why don't we cut down on our soft drinks intake?" he asked.
Colleague Professor Rita Sung warned that obese children were likely to be overweight for the rest of their lives. Overweight people would be at risk from diseases such as diabetes, heart problems and high blood pressure, she added.
A Department of Health survey of 410,000 primary and secondary school students in 1999 showed about 12.7 per cent were overweight. The rate of obesity was 13.2 per cent in primary schools and 11 per cent in secondary school.
Professor Sung said previous findings by the university had shown soft drinks, deep-fried snacks and meat were the favourites of obese Hong Kong children.