Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages

Adults gulping an average of 300 calories every day, study finds

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By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- If you're like many Americans, soda and coffee drinks have become a staple of your daily diet.

But the findings from a new study may make you drop that super-sized, sweetened beverage.

Published in the January issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the research found that people are now drinking almost 50 additional calories of sweetened beverages daily compared to two decades ago, for an average of about 300 calories daily coming from such drinks. So, even if you have the exact same diet as you did 20 years ago and your activity level hasn't changed, those seemingly harmless 50 extra daily calories could cause you to pack on an additional five pounds every year.

"People are taking in enormous amounts of calories in liquid form," said study author Sara Bleich, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "If you're looking for an easy way to lose weight, just stop drinking soda and other sweetened beverages."

Cutting 300 liquid calories from your daily diet translates into about a 2.5 pound weight loss each month.

For the study, Bleich and her colleagues compared data from two national surveys that are part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). One survey covered 1988 to 1994, and the other ran from 1999 to 2004.

The first study included 15,979 adults over age 20, and the second included 13,431 U.S. adults. All completed 24-hour dietary recall information, including whether or not they had consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage. For the study, sugar-sweetened beverages included soda, sport drinks, fruit drinks, punches, low-calorie drinks, sweetened tea and other sweetened drinks.

The percentage of adults who drank sugar-sweetened beverages increased from 58 percent to 63 percent, and the average daily caloric intake from sugar-sweetened drinks increased by 46 calories a day, according to the researchers.

Young adults drank far more calories from sugar-sweetened beverages than did the elderly, with young blacks consuming the highest percentage of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The researchers also found that overweight adults who were trying to lose weight were less likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages, yet still consumed an average of 278 calories a day during the second study period.

"U.S. adults are consuming a very large amount of sugar-sweetened beverages, and it has increased over time," said Bleich. "I think there are two main drivers to the increase: One is availability. Sugar-sweetened beverages are everywhere. And, two, the container size has increased, so that on any given consumption occasion, people are drinking more."

"Everyone is definitely used to super-sizing," said registered dietician Samantha Heller, host of the satellite radio program, The Samantha Heller Health and Nutrition Show on the NYU Langone Medical Center's Doctor Radio. "If you look at old 8-ounce Coke bottles, they look tiny, but a 20-ounce bottle looks normal."

"One 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, and most people are drinking more than 12 ounces," she added.

Heller said that she realizes it can be hard to make a change. "When you drink something that tastes good and gives you an energy boost, it's awfully hard to make a connection between those feelings and the fact that those drinks can contribute to overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

Still, she advised, "You need to limit your daily intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. To give yourself an incentive, take the money you would've spent on those drinks and put it in a jar, and in a couple of months, buy something fun for yourself or your family."

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers information on evaluating the calorie content of foods and beverages.

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