Obesity in children has reached epidemic proportions and has been partly linked to the consumption of carbonated drinks sweetened with sugar.
Researchers introduced an education programme to six primary schools in Christchurch, Dorset over one school year. The main objective was to discourage the consumption of carbonated drinks among children aged 7-11 years.
Fifteen classes took part in the programme (intervention group) and 14 acted as a control group. The children completed diaries of drinks consumed and body mass index was measured at six and 12 months.
Consumption of carbonated drinks over three days decreased by 0.6 glasses (average glass size 250 ml) a day in the intervention group but increased by 0.2 glasses in the control group. Consumption of water increased in both groups.
At 12 months, the percentage of overweight and obese children increased in the control group by 7.6% compared with a decrease in the intervention group of 0.2%.
"Our intervention was simple, involved no teacher training, and could be easily implemented by a health educator working in several schools," say the authors.
"Although our targeted approach was modestly beneficial, other external influences on children's eating habits and leisure activities need to be debated widely in society. For most people, obesity still remains preventable," they conclude.