Half of Americans sip sugary drinks daily

Americans get 8% of daily calories from sugary drinks, a study from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics says.

Story highlights

  • Half of U.S. population over age 2 consumes sugary drinks daily, CDC says
  • Report says the drinks have been linked to weight gain, obesity and diabetes
  • Beverage makers say their products have not fueled obesity and diabetes
  • Male teens are most frequent consumers of sugary drinks, report says
When it was first invented, soda pop was a treat most people had once in a while for special occasions.
Now it's a daily fixture in American life -- in bright containers glowing inside vending machines, chugged from 32-ounce bucket-like containers at self-service stations and served as the default beverage in fast-food meals.
In today's carbonation nation, half of the U.S. population over age 2 consumes sugary drinks daily, according to a report released by National Center for Health Statistics.
The sugary drinks include sodas, sweetened waters, and energy, sports and fruit beverages. Not included in the total were diet drinks, 100% fruit juices, sweetened teas and flavored milk. The report states that sugary drinks have been linked to "poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and in adults, type 2 diabetes."
Male teens are the most frequent consumers and guzzle about 252 to 273 calories every day from various drinks, the report says. Their one-day consumption is more than half the weekly intake suggested by the American Heart Association, which recommends no more than three 12-ounce cans of soda in one week (equivalent to 450 calories).
The consumption of such sugary drinks has increased over the last 30 years, the report stated.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that soda drinking for youths between the ages of 6 and 17 was at 37% in the 1970s and then 56% in the 1990s. This latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that from 2005 to 2008, consumption increased again.
"If you look at male children, 70% consume on a given day," said lead author Cynthia Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist who specializes in obesity.
The analysis was based on 17,000 participants who were asked to recall what they ate in the last 24 hours in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The American Beverage Association denied that its products fueled obesity: "Contrary to what may be implied ... sugar-sweetened beverages are not driving health issues like obesity and diabetes."
It pointed to market data indicating that the calories in beverages decreased by 21% from 1998 to 2008, while obesity rates climbed. It also stated that sugar-sweetened beverages account for 7% of calories in the average American diet.
"That means Americans get 93 percent of their calories from other foods and beverages," the group stated.
The latest CDC research released Wednesday also found similar results: Kids and teens get about 6.7% to 8.2% of their daily caloric intake from the beverages, and adults get about 5% to 8%.
But the extra calories from drinks could add several pounds every year, said Marisa Moore, a nutritionist.
"A lot of times, people don't think of beverages as part of their daily total calories," she said. "When I think about soda drinking -- in general, it provides empty calories. It takes the place of more nutritious options."
She suggested alternatives like water, sparkling water, tea and skim milk.
The CDC's report found major differences in soda consumption depending on race, sex and income level.
In every age category, males consumed more sugary drinks than females. This could be because males consume more calories than females, Ogden said.
In terms of race, black children got about 8.5% of their total daily calories from sugary drinks, compared with 8.2% for Mexican-American and 7.7% for white children. Black adults received 8.6% of their daily calories from sugary drinks, and the figure was 8.2% for Mexican-Americans and 5.3% for whites.
There was also a direct association between income level and sugary beverage consumption. Adults living in a family of four earning approximately $29,000 per year got 8.8% of their daily calories from sugary drinks, compared with 4.4% for those who earned about $77,000.