Sugary drinks and their influence on health

Everyone loves the sweet taste of sugar but the truth behind added sugar isn't very sweet at all.

It turns out Americans eat quite a bit of sugar, and one of the leading sources of added sugar in our daily diets is sugary drinks. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the per capita soft-drink consumption has increased by nearly 500 percent in the past 50 years. This is no surprise given that half of the entire population consumes a sugary drink every day.

Children are now drinking a significant amount of sugary drinks and the calories consumed from these drinks account for 22% of empty calories consumed by youth. In adolescents, sugary drinks are the number one source of calories in the diet. An 8-ounce sugar sweetened beverage contains on average 110 calories and 27 to 30 grams of sugar. This is 160 percent or more of a child's recommended daily amount of added sugar.

Along with sugary drinks, energy drinks are becoming more popular in youth, particularly in adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that energy drinks, "have no place in the diet of children and adolescents." Most energy drinks contain large amounts of sugar but also have extremely high concentrations of caffeine and other related stimulants. The average energy drink contains 80 milligrams of caffeine which is similar to a cup of coffee, and other energy drinks range from 75 to over 200 milligrams per serving.

Caffeine is also found in traditional sodas such as Coke (34 milligrams) and Mountain Dew (55 milligrams). Consumption of energy drinks and soda should be limited in youth as they can boost heart rate and blood pressure, dehydrate the body, and prevent sleep. They should also not be used while exercising as this can lead to severe dehydration.

Sugar has many less than sweet side effects, so the next time you buy or drink a sugary beverage keep in mind the health consequences it may have. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Institute of Medicine (IOM), American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association (AMA), American Heart Association, and World Health Organization (WHO) have all called for reduced consumption of added sugars, specifically from sugary drinks. Create a healthier you and a healthier nation by reducing your sugary drink intake.

Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD is a nutrition scientist and registered dietitian at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado Denver. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MichelleCardel for daily nutrition tips!


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