Johns Hopkins Gazette | December 15, 2008
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 15, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 15
Sweetened-Beverage Consumption Increases in the U.S.

By Natalie Wood-Wright
School of Public Health

Over the past two decades, the number of adults consuming sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and fruit punches has increased dramatically, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers examined changes over the past two decades in the consumption of sugar- sweetened beverages based on nationally representative survey data and found that they comprise a significant source of total daily beverage intake and are the largest source of beverage calories consumed daily. Their results are published in the January 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"More adults are drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, and among those drinkers, consumption has increased," said Sara N. Bleich, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management. "From 1988 to 2004, the percentage of sugar- sweetened-beverage drinkers increased 5 percent. Per capita consumption of energy from sugar- sweetened beverages increased 46 kilocalories per day, and daily sugar-sweetened-beverage consumption among drinkers increased 6 ounces per day."

The study also examined trends in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by age, race/ethnicity and weight loss intention. Consumption was highest (231-289 kcal/day) among young adults, who consumed roughly 20 percent of their sugar-sweetened-beverage calories at work, and lowest (68-83 kcal/day) among the elderly. Among race/ethnicity groups, the percentage of sugar- sweetened-beverage drinkers and per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was highest among blacks, followed by Mexican-Americans. Overweight/obese adults who were trying to lose weight were less likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages compared to those who were not, but they still consumed a considerable amount (278 kcal/day) from 1999 to 2004.

Using dietary data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (1988-94 and 1999-2004), researchers examined national trends in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (percentage of drinkers, amount consumed, consumption location and type of beverage) among U.S. adults. Bleich and her colleagues identified six mutually exclusive beverage categories: sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks and punches, low-calorie drinks, sweetened tea and other sweetened beverages); 100 percent juice; diet beverages; milk; coffee or tea; and alcohol.

Earlier studies have linked consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to the obesity epidemic, which affects two-thirds of adults and increases the risk for adverse health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Adults are considered to be overweight if their body mass index is 25 or higher and obese if 30 or higher.

"Although this analysis does not attempt to estimate the effect of sugar-sweetened-beverage intake on obesity incidence, a number of studies have linked sugar-sweetened-beverage consumption to obesity and type 2 diabetes," said study author Youfa Wang, associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Center for Human Nutrition. "Based on these nationally representative surveys, our study found higher sugar-sweetened-beverage consumption also happened to be among populations at greater risk for obesity. There are few signs of improvement over the past decade, and the situation seems to become worse among young adults aged 20 to 44."

According to Bleich and colleagues, efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened-beverage consumption may be an important strategy for reducing empty calorie intake in the adult diet in the United States.

The study was written by Sara Bleich, Y. Claire Wang, Youfa Wang and Steven L. Gortmaker.

The researchers were supported in part by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, grant 57891.


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