The promising trend of Americans giving up sugary drinks seems to have stalled, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of calories per day that children and adults have been getting from soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages has been dropping for steadily for nearly 20 years, but new data show that since 2009 that number has plateaued.
In 2003, children used to drink about 220 calories per day of these kinds of drinks. By 2009, that number had decreased to 155; it is now only slightly below that — 143 calories per day — for 2011-2014. Same goes for adults: After a sharp decline between 2003 and 2009 — from 188 to 151 calories per day — the amount of calories coming from sugary drinks has since only declined to 145.
And based on the USDA’s latest dietary guidelines, that’s likely still too high. Guidelines recommend that no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily calories should come from added sugars. But US adults are getting about 6.5 percent of their total daily calories just from sugar-sweetened beverages (including sodas, fruit juices with added sugars, sports drinks, and energy drinks) — not leaving much room for any other sweet foods.
Some cities are trying taxes to encourage residents to kick their soda habits down another notch. San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Boulder, Colo., and Philadelphia all passed municipal taxes on beverages with added sugars in 2016; Illinois’s Cook County, which includes Chicago, also passed a similar tax. Philadelphians have been paying the tax since Jan. 1. Cook County’s is expected to take effect on July 1.
A 2015 paper estimated that a one cent per ounce tax could cut people’s consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by 20 percent, possibly saving $23.6 billion in health care costs over 10 years.
This latest report is also one demographic group’s debut. For the first time, CDC surveyed a large enough sample of Asian children and adults to report consumption information for the group. Asian-Americans drink about half the calories in sugary drinks as white, black, or Hispanic-Americans do, a finding that Asher Rosinger, a researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics and one of the authors of the report, said is “really interesting.”
“I think it merits a lot of future exploration,” Rosinger said.
America’s beverage companies agree that children and adults should be mindful of the calories they consume from sugar. We are committed to being part of real solutions to public health challenges with initiatives like Balance Calories, which aims to reduce sugar and calories consumed from beverages across America. We also have voluntarily placed clear calorie labels on the front of every bottle, can and pack we produce. Through our School Beverage Guidelines, we voluntarily removed full-calorie sodas from schools, replacing them with a range of lower-calorie and smaller-portion choices.”
“It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the CDC data on obesity shows that obesity rates went up over the years even though the calories we get from beverages has been going down. So soft drinks are not driving these rates.”
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