Put down the juice: Sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories

 By Dakshana Bascaramurty

Globe and Mail Blog Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. Half of all the added sugars Americans drink come from them. The release is tied to a new advisory from the American Heart Association to limit the number of servings of these beverages filled with empty calories to 450 calories per week.

Pop and sport drink-filled vending machines have been a recent target of school boards and governments, which are concerned about the impact of those sugary drinks on child development. When Ontario students head back to school next week, they’ll be greeted with vending machines full of milk, water, 100 per cent juice and vegetable cocktails.

But while kids have been at the centre of efforts to curb sugary drink consumption, an American Heart Association study of 17,000 Americans found adults between 20 and 39 knocked back almost as many of these beverages – an average of 336 calories from them each day (which would mean 2,352 per week – five times the recommended amount).

While it’s no secret that the calories you gain from drinking pop or beer come with few health benefits, Health Canada also advises people limit their intake of sports drinks, energy drinks, punches, sweetened tea and coffee and juice, which offer few nutrients for what can often be sky-high calorie counts (sometimes even higher than pop).

The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. prepared a list of calories found in various drinks (per 591 mL serving) :

Fruit punch: 192

100% apple juice: 192

100% orange juice: 168

Lemonade: 168

Regular cola: 136

Sweetened lemon iced tea (bottled, not homemade): 135

Regular ginger ale: 124

Sports drink: 99

Fitness water: 18

Unsweetened iced tea: 2

Water: 0

Sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet and account for half of all added sugars consumed. And unlike any other food or beverage, only sugary drinks have been shown to have a causal role in promoting obesity: Each additional sugary drink consumed per day, according to one study, increases the likelihood that a child will become obese by about 60 percent. A reason that sugary drinks are conducive to obesity is that the calories in beverages aren’t as satiating as solid foods. The American Heart Association recommends that people limit their intake of sugary drinks to about 450 calories per week, or about three 12-ounce cans. Average consumption is now more than twice that.

The beverage industry produces the equivalent of more than nine cans of sugary drinks per person per week, though some of that is wasted. Meanwhile, people who participate in food consumption surveys, such as that used in a study released today by the Centers for Disease Control, acknowledge consuming just over six cans per week. Because people typically understate consumption, especially of unhealthy foods, actual consumption is somewhere between six and nine. Those averages include the 50 percent of people that do not drink any sugary drinks on a given day.

“Soda, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages account for up to 10 percent of all calories consumed in the U.S. diet, and are known to be major contributors to obesity. Reducing our intake of these drinks can help reduce the incidence of preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, arthritis, heart attacks, and stroke

  • Males consume more sugar drinks than females.
  • Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups.
  • Approximately one-half of the U.S. population consumes sugar drinks on any given day.
  • Non-Hispanic black children and adolescents consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than their Mexican-American counterparts. Non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American adults consume more than non-Hispanic white adults.
  • Low-income persons consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than those with higher income.
  • Most of the sugar drinks consumed away from home are obtained from stores and not restaurants or schools.

Consumption of sugar drinks in the United States has increased over the last 30 years among both children and adults (1–3). Sugar drinks have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and, in adults, type 2 diabetes (4,5). U.S. dietary guidelines issued in 2010 recommend limiting the consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars (6). Moreover, the American Heart Association has recommended a consumption goal of no more than 450 kilocalories (kcal) of sugar-sweetened beverages—or fewer than three 12-oz cans of carbonated cola—per week (7). This brief presents the most recent national data on sugar-drink consumption in the United States. Results are presented by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and income. Where sugar drinks are consumed and obtained is also presented.



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