A study from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill seems to confirm what many probably suspected, that sugary drinks are the primary culprit when kids take in too many calories. Results of the study, from UNC’s Department of Nutrition, are published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study, according to lead investigator Kevin Mathias zeros in on the contribution sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) contribute to the higher caloric intake of consumers who drink them, and identifies other food and beverage groups from the overall diet that are associated with increased SSB consumption.

The researchers analyzed data from almost 11,000 children from ages two to 18. Among kids from two to five and from six to 11, they found that as intake of SSBs increased, intake of food increased somewhat and intake of non-sweetened beverages declined. By examining both food and non-sweetened beverages the authors were able to conclude that SSBs are primarily responsible for higher caloric intakes among two- to five-year olds and six- to 11-year olds. Among older kids from 12 to 18 who consume SSBs, increased food intake played a larger, along with SSBs, in high caloric intake

Among each of the age groups, researchers found higher SSB intake correlated with greater consumption of energy-dense, high-calorie foods such as pizza, cookies and fried potatoes.