There is a clear association between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity. A recent study has factored in genetic predisposition to weight gain when considering the connection between soft drink consumption and resulting symptoms of obesity.
Sugar-sweetened beverages including fruit juices, soft drinks, and energy drinks have consistently been the largest source of added sugars in the diet of most Americans. The intake of these beverages has been previously correlated with weight gain in both children and adults. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines the relationship between obesity inducing factors such as gene variants associated with body mass index (BMI) and soft drink intake, and weight gain measures including longitudinal changes in body weight and waist circumference.
The study was conducted using 4765 individuals. Genetic predispositions in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms were factored in. 50 listed genetic modifications were taken into account using 4 specific genetic predisposition scores: a complete genetic predisposition score encompassing all 50 polymorphisms, BMI-specific single nucleotide polymorphisms, waist circumference-related single nucleotide polymorphisms, and a waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for BMI genetic predisposition score.
Each daily serving of soft drinks was significantly related to increased body weight. The same trend was not directly evident with waist circumference. Body weight analyses showed interactions with the waist circumference genetic score whereas waist circumference analyses showed interactions with the complete genetic score and the BMI score. An association between soft drink intake and body weight but not waist circumference was found. It was concluded that a high waist circumference genetic score may reduce the association between soft drink intake and body weight gain. In contrast, a genetic predisposition to high BMI or the combined scores of all weight gain aspects including waist-to-hip ratio (BMI adjusted), waist circumference, and BMI, may strengthen the association between soft drink intake and waist circumference gain.
The study suggested that the findings pertaining to genetic predisposition effects on the association between soft drink intake and obesity had little public health relevance. While the results may not be sufficiently significant to support the hypotheses, they pose questions regarding the amalgamation of nature and nurture, with respect to exposure to a specific medical condition. The study examines ways in which lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions work in accordance, or against each other, to affect the health of an individual and a general population. With further studies to confirm or deny these findings, medical and health care professionals, specifically nutritionists and genetic counsellors, may be able to use the information to effectively produce genetic treatments for obesity and encourage healthier dietary lifestyles.
Written By: Shrishti Ahuja, BSc