Sugar Drink Habit Is Widespread in US

November 12, 2012

Sugar Drink Habit Is Widespread in US

A new report which is a snapshot of any day in the US has been published. The CDC report, “Consumption of Sugar Drinks in the United States, 2005-2008,” asked a sample of people who were considered to be representative of the American population to record everything they ate and drank over a 24 period. Part of the information included sugary drinks intake.

Some of the information found by the report is that men drink more sugary drinks than women but most sugary drinks were consumed by young adults. Men and boys drank, on average, 175 calories worth of sugary drinks per day, compared to women and girls who drank, on average, 94 calories a day. The American Heart Association states that people should not drink more than 450 calories a week of sugary drinks. The report also identified that 50% of the population in the U.S. drank sugary drinks on any given day.

The increased interest in the report may be because sugary drink consumption in the US has grown over the last three decades and has been associated with obesity, poor diet and type 2 diabetes. U.S. dietary guidelines have recently recommended reducing the intake of all foods and drinks with added sugars.

Sugary Drink Report Findings

For the purpose of the report fruit drinks, energy drinks, sodas, sweetened bottled waters and sports drinks were defined as sugary drinks. Drinks that were not defined as sugary drinks were diet drinks, flavored milks, sweetened tea and 100% fruit juices.

The data from the 2005 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a representative ‘snapshot’ of the U.S. population and shows what food and drink they consumed during a 24-hour period. It can differentiate between those who drink sugary drinks and those who do not.

The survey showed that 70% of boys between 2 and 19 take a sugary drink in any given day. Teenage boys took in, on average, 273 calories a day, whereas teenage girls, on average consumed 171 calories. Men and women in the 20 to 39 age range differed in their intakes with men, on average, taking 252 calories and women only taking 138 calories per day. Only 40% of women took a sugary drink in any given day and 5% of the population drinks at least 567 calories in any given day.

As a percentage of their daily calorific input, people on lower incomes tended to have calories from sugary drinks make up more of their intake. White adults have less calories from sugary drinks than Non Hispanic black and Mexican American adults. It was also identified that 52% of these sugary drinks were consumed at home. Whether the trend to drink sugary drinks is increasing or decreasing is not yet known. The data is available but has yet to be analyzed.


The response to this study was predictable. A spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, an industry promoting group said that sugar sweetened drinks “are not driving health issues like obesity and diabetes”. The spokesperson quoted a July 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They say that this study stated that Americans consumed 25% less added sugar in 2008 than they did in 1999. They say that was the result of people drinking less soda.

More low calorie and calorie free options are available on the market causing the total number of calories within drinks produced by member companies to drop 21% from 1998 to 2008 says the Beverage Marketing Corporation. The group also says, “Balancing calories from all foods and beverages with those burned through physical activity and exercise is essential to maintaining a balanced, active and healthy lifestyle”.

The new report did not address the issues raised by the Beverage Marketing Corporation because it only recorded what people consumed in that one 24 hour period. There are no earlier reports of sugary drink consumption on a given day from 2001 to 2004.

Reducing Sugary Drinks

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has launched a campaign called “Life’s Sweeter with Fewer Sugary Drinks”. The campaign’s aim is to assist people to reduce their sugar intake by limiting sugary drinks down to the American Heart Associations recommended limits (less than 3 cans a week). Organizations supporting the campaign include the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Some cities are already active including Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston.

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