Sun. Feb 5th, 2023
In the fight for American health, Big Soda wins

Amid epidemics of obesity and all the problems associated with it, health experts are sounding the alarm to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, especially for children. Pediatricians recommend that children drink no more than one 8-ounce sugary drink a week.

But somehow that message is not getting across.

Nearly two-thirds of children (2 to 19 years old) drink at least one sugary drink one day, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In general, children and adults no longer make progress in reducing their taste for sweet drinks. After a steady decline over the past decade, consumption of sugary drinks appears to be reaching a plateau.

Consumption of sugary drinks among children from 1999 to 2010.
Enlarge / Consumption of sugary drinks among children from 1999 to 2010.

According to data from a 2003-2004 report, children were getting an average of about 216 calories a day from sugary drinks, which dropped to 155 in the 2009-2010 report. In the current 2011-2014 report, that number hadn’t changed much and came it comes out to 143. That amounts to about 7.3 percent of children’s total calories per day.

For adults, the daily calorie count of sugary drinks went from 188 in 2003-2008 to 151 in 2009-2010. The latest report has the number at 145. That’s about 6.5 percent of adults’ total calorie intake per day.

Health experts currently recommend that no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily calories should come from added sugars (which do not occur naturally in foods, such as fruit). According to the latest estimates, Americans get an average of 13 percent of their calories from added sugars — and the main reason is sugary drinks.

(The NCHS counts sugary drinks as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices, and sugar-sweetened waters, tea, and coffee.)

It is well known that excessive consumption of added sugars is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cavities. But sugary drinks pose a particularly difficult challenge to get people to cut back on their sugars — people may not consider soda and sugary drinks part of their daily caloric intake, and may not pay attention to how much they drink.

It also doesn’t help that the sugar and beverage industry has actively engaged in research and policy-making to downplay the health risks of their products and boost sales — a topic Ars has addressed several times.

In an interview with The washington mail, Walter Willett, an epidemiologist and nutritionist at Harvard, said he was particularly concerned about the amount of sugary drinks kids are hitting back at. “We protect them from alcohol, tobacco, [and] guns…but not Big Soda, which is extremely treacherous and cares nothing for the carnage it causes.”

In a statement to Ars, the American Beverage Association wrote:

“The U.S. beverage companies agree that children and adults should be mindful of the calories they consume from sugar. We are committed to being part of real solutions to public health challenges with initiatives such as Balance Calories, which aims to reduce the sugar and calories consumed from beverages across America. We’ve also voluntarily placed clear calorie labels on the front of every bottle, can and package we produce. Through our school drink guidelines, we have voluntarily removed low-calorie soft drinks from schools and replaced them with a range of lower-calorie, smaller-sized portions.”

This post has been updated with the statement from the ABA.

By akfire1

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