• Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all

    The CDC has a report out, entitled, “Consumption of Sugar Drinks in the United States, 2005–2008“. Why is this important? Well, the amount of sugar drinks that people have been drinking has been going up for decades. Their consumption is linked to weight gain and poor nutrition. The American Heart Association has recommended that people drink no more than 450 calories of sugar sweetened drinks per week. So how are we doing?


    The worst offenders, teenage boys, are drinking almost 275 calories of sugar drinks per day. Almost no groups, on average, are meeting the American Heart Association recommendation. But even this doesn’t tell us the whole picture. People aren’t consuming these beverages equally:

    About half of people are consuming no sugar beverages at all. The other half, therefore, are consuming even more than might be assumed from the averages. Want to wager on which half has more of an obesity problem? In fact, 5% of people are consuming more than 550 calories of sugar beverages per day.

    On a personal note, giving up Coke about 10 years ago was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I love Coke. When I was a resident I tried to organize a protest because the hospital cafeteria only carried Pepsi products. But I recognized that the empty calories that I was adding to my diet each day were making it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy weight. I hate Diet Coke. Hate it. But, on the rare occasions I drink soda, that’s what I choose. It’s made a difference. Heck, recent research has shown that if we could each consume 20 (yes, twenty) fewer calories per day for three years, every American could lose an average of 2 pounds.

    So I have no idea what the American Beverage Association was thinking when they said this:

    According to an analysis of federal government data presented to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee, all sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks, flavored waters, etc.) account for only 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet. That means Americans get 93 percent of their calories from other foods and beverages.

    Really, ABA? That’s what you thought would be good to say?

    The average American’s diet is over 2000 calories. So, even if they are only consuming 7% of their calories from sugar drinks, they’re drinking more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended amounts. That’s nothing to be proud of. Moreover, the calories from sugar drinks are utterly empty. They’re just sugar. There’s no more nutritional value from a soft drink than a pixy stix. Except, of course, for the fact that a pixy stix has less calories than a can of soda. And no sodium.

    Obesity is complicated, and I’m not saying that sugar beverages are the only, or even the major cause. But they’re certainly part of it. And if we need to find something to cut out of our diets, there are few options with less redeeming value then sugar drinks. If I were the American Beverage Association, I’d consider forgoing the press release next time.

    (h/t longtime reader Brad)

    • I to hate Diet Coke. I think that KO should make a sour soda with much less sugar for use older people. It might sell well.

      As far as I can tell calories are calories from soda or from spinach and very few American are lacking vitamins, amino acids or minerals. So why beat up on soda and juice about obesity?

      On the think that the evidence is good that sipping acidic beverages is bad for teeth.

    • I gave up drinking non-diet Soda a long time ago. In fact I try not to drink too much diet soda as it is.

      Didn’t help with my weight. Not one fucking bit.


    • I really hate it when people make these blanket statements and call soda a “sugary” drink. Outside of the microbrewing/independent market, the main sweetener used is high fructose corn syrup, and there have been recent studies linking HFCS to obesity on a far more aggressive basis than sucrose. Furthermore, drinking Diet Coke doesn’t keep you from not consuming HFCS: It’s in everything, including breads and cereals and canned goods. So it doesn’t negate the problem entirely.

      • In this situation, “sugary” refers to what happens to the blood sugar. That is the only relevant factor when it comes to obesity. Glycemic Index and, therefore, the stimulation of the fat storage hormone insulin. Sucrose and HFCS have, essentially, the same glycemic index (effect on blood “sugar”). Which is what the author is referring too. You are right in that many other foods contain HFCS.

      • Really? “HFCS: It’s in everything, including breads and cereals and canned goods. So it doesn’t negate the problem entirely.”

        Um, no. I’m sure some bread or canned food or cereal has HFCS but that doesn’t mean they all do. That’s what the labels are for.

        If I buy soda/fzzy drinks, they are sugar-based, not HFCS or splenda or another of those. I refuse to go the “diet” route: eat what you like, just not so damn much, people. If you’re more worried about the calories or carbs in your beer than the taste, you’re doing it wrong.

        Anyway, these statistics are appalling but completely believable.

    • The writer seems to make the assumption that the ones drinking the sugary drinks are the obese ones. Don’t be so sure. “Diet” drinks are an easy way for overweight people to justify eating “non-diet” foods, whereas there are a lot of people (esp. under 30) who can consume copious amounts of sugar and fat and their metabolisms can deal with it.

      • I am far more likely to see someone 50+ pounds overweight with a 32 oz soda in their chubby fist than someone close to their target weight. We’re seeing a lot of obesity in the under 18 cohort, not just under 30. I don’t see a lot of diet options at the soda fountains.

      • “Obesity is complicated, and I’m not saying that sugar beverages are the only, or even the major cause. But they’re certainly part of it.” That’s not how I read it.

    • I’m surprised people hate diet coke. I love it. And it seems fine for the teeth. I had horrible teeth problems in the states, but all I could get was amalgam fillings. I came to Japan, and got all the amalgam replaced with castings (covered by the national health insurance! The rules are a bit nuts and require more office visits (even for cleaning/checkup), but US$30 is the most I was ever charged; usually under US$15.). I also switched to non-sugar sweetener in cofffee and tea. From major work every 6 months (amalgam is a temporary kludge, and if you have a lot of fillings, one or two will fail every 6 months) to no work (once the amalgam was gone) for 15 years.

    • I remember your Coke protest during residency :).