West Virginia has near the highest obesity rates in the US, with a recent obesity study of WV fifth graders showing an obesity rate of 30%.

A decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans has yielded the first clear proof that drinking sugary beverages interacts with genes that affect weight, making a person's risk for obesity beyond what it would be from heredity alone.

Sugary drinks are the biggest source of calories in the American diet.

The sale of soft drinks from Calhoun outlets are among the highest in the Little Kanawha region.

Worse yet, people with genes that predispose to weight gain are at even greater risk drinking sugar-laden drinks.

The Harvard School of Public Health said researchers checked for 32 gene variants that have previously been tied to weight.

They found the more sugary drinks someone consumed, the greater the impact of the genes on the person's weight and obesity risk.

The research among other studies published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, strengthens the case against soda and other sugary drinks as culprits in the obesity epidemic.

The results strongly suggest that sugary drinks cause people to gain weight, independent of other unhealthy behavior such as overeating and getting too little exercise, scientists say. The findings could mean more cities will follow the lead of New York City, which just adopted a controversial ban on large "big gulp" sugary drinks. Protests followed from the soda industry and people who objected to what they saw as government intrusion on personal choices.

The American Beverage Association disputed the study, saying sugar-sweetened beverages play role a small role in the U.S. diet.

See related story WV'S OBESITY RATE ON TRACK FOR DOUBLING - State Has Among Highest Obesity Rates In USA, Public Schools Tackling Problem

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