New Research: You Are What You Drink



By Julie Upton, RD

An interesting article was published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: It's an analysis of adults' beverage consumption patterns over the past decade, looking at what we're drinking, and how—and how much—it relates to body weight.

This study seeks to shed more light on the growing controversy around whether sweetened beverages are direct contributors to the obesity epidemic (and, in New York, specifically, whether they should be slapped with a hefty "obesity tax"). Several studies have suggested that our thirst for sugary beverages has contributed to the rise in obesity, but other studies have failed to find any direct cause-and-effect relationship.

In fact, this most recent study found that 63% of adults drink beverages with added sugar on a daily basis. Adults reported drinking, on average, 28 ounces a day—that's nearly 300 calories from liquids. Sodas were the main calorie culprits, accounting for 60% of the respondents' beverage calories. (Surprisingly, juice can sometimes be just as bad, or even worse!)

Looking back a decade, the authors found that we've increased our liquid calories by 46 calories a day—the equivalent of nearly 5 extra pounds a year. For adults ages 20 to 44, the jump was even more surprising: Calories from beverages added up to 289 calories, up from 203 calories just 10 years earlier.

The authors concluded that the national shifts in beverage calories parallel the rising prevalence of adult obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the study found that among 20- t0 44-year-olds, those with the most calories from beverages also were more likely to be overweight or obese.

Here's a quick glance at the average daily consumption (per person) of liquid calories in a U.S. diet:

  • Soda and sugary drinks: 203 calories
  • Alcohol: 99 calories
  • Milk: 84 calories
  • 100% fruit juice: 32 calories
  • Coffee/tea: 11 calories

Limiting or avoiding sugary beverages is one diet strategy that many individuals are clearly overlooking. And since beverages provide little satiety value, they are relatively easy to substitute. Need more motivation? Just remember that it takes about an hour to walk off a can of soda. Next time, think before you drink.