Sugar-sweetened drinks: They’re weighing us down

Aug. 27, 2014—If you reach for a can of regular, nondiet soda pop or a glass of lemonade when you’re parched, you’re not alone. More than 25 percent of American adults quench their thirst at least once a day with sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

However, the study’s authors note, these sugary drinks have little, if any, nutritional value—and they’ve been linked to chronic health problems like obesity.

About the study

To estimate how many Americans are drinking sweetened fruit drinks and nondiet soda, researchers looked at data from CDC’s 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This annual phone survey asks U.S. adults about personal behaviors that can prevent or contribute to health problems. It also assesses risk factors for chronic diseases.

In the 2012 BRFSS, 115,291 adults in 18 states answered optional questions about how often, in the preceding 30 days, they:

  1. Drank regular soda pop that contains sugar (not diet soda pop)
  2. Drank fruit drinks such as cranberry juice cocktail, Kool-Aid and lemonade

Researchers learned that 26.3 percent of these adults—more than 1 in 4—drank nondiet soda, fruit drinks or both at least once a day.

The survey did not ask how much of each beverage people drank. It also did not ask about other sugary drinks, such as energy drinks and sweetened coffee and tea. This means Americans’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may be even higher than the survey data suggests.

Read the report here.

The take-home message
Hydration is crucial to good health. For healthy hydration, women should consume about 9 cups of water each day, while men need about 13 cups. Everyone needs more during hot weather, intense physical activity or illness.

If you’re relying on sugary drinks to stay hydrated, it may be time to consider CDC’s advice: Rethink your drink. That’s because consumption of beverages sweetened with sugar has been linked to some serious chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

To start cutting back:

  1. Serve water with meals
  2. Carry a water bottle
  3. Swap one sugary drink each day for plain, zero-calorie water. Here are some possibilities—and the empty calories you’ll cut out (per 12-ounce serving):
    • Sports drink: 99 calories
    • Nondiet ginger ale: 124 calories
    • Sweetened, bottled iced tea: 135 calories
    • Lemonade: 168 calories
    • Fruit punch: 192 calories

Find out more about the benefits of hydration here.


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