Sugar-sweetened beverages can have a sour impact on your health.

Today’s post is written by Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Director of Nutrition. The post originally appeared in the newsletter, published by the Osher Clinical Center for Integrative Medicine.

The next time you reach for a nice cold soda or juice, consider this – each 12 ounce can of a sugar-sweetened drink or juice contains 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar, amounting to 150 to 175 calories. Though it doesn’t sound like much, it will take about 20 minutes of casual biking, walking, or yoga just to burn these extra calories!

Obesity is a growing problem in the US (no pun intended), and there are many contributors to the crisis. One is the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), as well as the increase in beverage portion sizes. These two factors have led to a greater percentage of calories consumed each day via beverages.

Sugar-sweetened beverages currently account for about 10 percent of total calories consumed in the US diet. Today, 63 percent of adults and 80 percent of youth consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day. Americans consume about 250 to 300 more daily calories today compared to the seventies, and about half of this increase is due to the greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Weight gain is not the only problem caused by the higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. It also contributes to the development of chronic diseases. Some of the research has reported:

  • Heart Disease:

Women who drank more than two  servings of SSBs each day had a 40 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to women who rarely drank SSBs.

Adults who consumed one to two servings per day of SSBs, had a 20 percent greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared to those who consumed less than one serving of SSBs per month.

  • Diabetes:

Adults in the top fifth of SSB consumption had a 26 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those in the lowest fifth of SSB consumption.

Women who consumed more than five servings of sugar-sweetened cola per week had a 22 percent increased risk of developing gestational diabetes compared to those in the lowest fifth of SSB consumption.

Other research suggests that people don’t compensate for consuming calories through beverages by eating less food. This is probably because fluids don’t contribute to a feeling of “fullness.” As a result, sugar-sweetened beverages are an added layer of calories.

The next time you pick up a sugar-sweetened beverage, take a look at the label. The number of grams of sugar per serving should be listed. Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar or 16 calories. The American Heart Association recommends that the maximum daily intake of added sugars from all sources be six teaspoons (96 calories) for women and nine teaspoons (144 calories) for men.

The Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has designed a program to help make healthier food choices, including beverages. Visit Your Health,Your Choice for more information about choosing beverages wisely.

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