Professor Alex Bentley Head of Anthropology University of Tennessee Knoxville TN 

Excess Sugar in Childhood Linked to Adult Obesity Epidemic Interview with:

Professor Alex Bentley Head of Anthropology University of Tennessee Knoxville TN 

Dr. Bentley

Professor Alex Bentley
Head of Anthropology
University of Tennessee
Knoxville TN What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In recent years, considerable evidence has accumulated suggesting that excess sugar consumption, e.g. in sugar-sweetened beverages, has been a major driver of the U.S. obesity crisis. Critics of this idea, however, have asked: why did the rise in sugar consumption precede the U.S. obesity crises by a decade or more, and why did obesity continue to rise even after sugar consumption began declining the early 2000s?

We modeled the delayed onset of obesity by assuming that diet is a cumulative process that begins in childhood. On average, each age cohort (birth year) has its own specific cumulative exposure to excess sugar in their diets.  The inherent delay in our model links childhood consumption of excess sugar with propensity for adult obesity as an adult. Our model explains a simple process by which excess sugar in diets of children of the 1970s and 1980s could explain the sharp increase of adult obesity that began in the 1990s. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This study and others indicate the long term effects of diet, especially in childhood.  Childhood is important not just physiologically but in formation of attitudes and habits. We should therefor expect delayed success of any policy interventions designed to alter dietary habits. If interventions are targeted at altering the dietary habits of children, then a reduction in obesity should follow once these generations enter adulthood. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our simple model can be adapted to more specific regional case studies of obesity (our study was a U.S. national level), or even to studies of other kinds of cumulative change over the lifespan of age cohorts, such as internalized attitudes, habits and values over time. 


U.S. obesity as delayed effect of excess sugar

Alexander Bentley, Damian J. Ruck, Hillary N. Fouts
In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 17 September 2019
Economics & Human Biology


Last Modified: [last-modified]




The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.


Last Updated on September 26, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD