Washington/August 20/PRNewswire-USNewswire -- A new peer-reviewed study has found that those who frequently consume sweetened soft drinks do not have a higher obesity rate than those who rarely drink them.

The study, published in this month's edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology, found higher obesity rates correlated with several other factors, such as the amount of time in front of the computer or TV, or the consumption of high amounts of dietary fat.

But those who frequently consumed sweetened beverages -- usually containing high fructose corn syrup -- did not have a higher risk of obesity.

"This study supports the notion that no single ingredient or component in our diets is the sole cause for the obesity rise in the U.S. population," said Dr. Mark Empie, one of the study's authors.

The study is in line with previous research that shows no causal link between high fructose corn syrup and obesity. USDA data show that per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup is declining, yet obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise. In addition, obesity rates are rising around the world, including in Mexico, Australia and Europe, even though the use of high fructose corn syrup outside of the U.S. is limited or nonexistent.

Among the new study's findings:
-- A higher physical activity level is related to a lower incidence of obesity.
-- Television and computer screen watching time are related to increased obesity.
-- High fat diets are related to an increased obesity incidence.
-- Those who frequently consume sweetened beverages -- such as sweetened soft drinks and punch -- had similar obesity percentages compared to infrequent users.

The study was conducted by the Nutritional and Scientific Affairs Group at the James R. Randall Research Center at the Archer Daniels Midland Company. It was authored by Empie, vice president Regulatory & Scientific Affairs at Archer Daniels Midland; and Dr. Sam Z. Sun, senior nutrition research scientist at Archer Daniels Midland. Archer Daniels Midland is a member of the Corn Refiners Association.

For the study, the researchers analyzed extensive data from the USDA Continuing Surveys of Food Intakes by Individuals, CDC National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the Food Surveys Research Group. The study was peer-reviewed before its publication.

"The findings were consistent across the various national data bases relating food consumption and obesity," Empie said. "To our knowledge, this is the first time that anyone has simultaneously and comparatively used all these different data bases to look at obesity, lifestyle factors and consumption of sweetened beverages."

From the August 27, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash