Sugary drinks add 300 calories a day to youths' diets

9/01/2011 22:36:43 PM

Teens who drink soda, energy drinks and other sugary beverages are guzzling about 327 calories a day from them, which is equal to about 2½ cans of cola, new government data show.

And people ages 20-39 who drink sugary beverages consume 336 calories a day from them.

Some people are getting a lot of their daily calories from the drinks, says Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the research.

The latest analysis shows that half of people in the USA drink sugary beverages on any given day, and about 25% consume at least 200 calories a day from them. About 5% of people ages 2 and older consume at least 567 calories a day from such drinks.

That's a national problem, nutrition experts say. "Sugar-sweetened beverages are the No. 1 single source of calories in the American diet and account for about half of all added sugars that people consume," says Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont.

Ogden says that "the reason we are interested in sugary drinks is they are associated with a variety of conditions including obesity and type 2 diabetes."

Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says consumption of super-caffeinated energy drinks, especially among teens and young adults, is skyrocketing. "These are empty calories with no health benefits."

The new findings are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is considered the gold standard for evaluating food and beverage habits because the data come from in-person interviews about dietary habits. The results are from more than 17,000 interviews conducted from 2005 to 2008.

The drinks with added sugar in the analysis included sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks and sweetened bottled waters. Not included: diet drinks, coffee, 100% fruit juice, sweetened teas and flavored milks.

The heart association advises people to consume no more than 36 ounces or about 450 calories from sugary beverages a week. "It's better if you can avoid them altogether and instead consume water, fat-free or 1% fat milk, 100% fruit juice and low-sodium vegetable juices," Johnson says.

Christopher Gindlesperger, director of communications for the American Beverage Association, points out that another recent government study shows sugar-sweetened beverages are playing a declining role in the American diet, even as obesity is increasing.

"People are drinking fewer full-calorie, sugar-sweetened beverages due to industry innovation in bringing no- and low-calorie beverages to the market," he says.

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