“I’ve seen 2-year-olds with fatty liver disease and teenagers with Type 2 diabetes,” pediatrician Dr. Natalie Muth told the New York Times recently. “It’s hard to compete with an $800-million-a-year marketing strategy by the soda industry.”

Dr. Muth is lead author of a new policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, urging legislators to embrace taxation and curb advertising on sugary drinks. “Sugary drinks are empty calories and they are the low‐hanging fruit in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Dr. Sheela Magge, co-author of the statement.

Though this call-to-action focuses on children and adolescents, over-consumption of added sugars, especially sugar sweetened beverages, is a problem for all Americans. According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “added sugars should contribute less than 10% of total calories consumed.” Here is a little math to help you see how this plays out in real life:

If an average person consumes 2,500 calories per day, that amounts to a recommendation of no more than 250 calories or 62 grams of added sugar. A typical 12 oz can of soda contains more than 35 grams of added sugar (that’s more than half the daily allowance). That adds up quick when you consider that we are also consuming many hidden sugars in everyday foods, like yogurt, ketchup, and even some meats.

Too much added sugar has been linked to a whole host of medical problems including,

  • dental decay,
  • cardiovascular disease,
  • high blood pressure,
  • insulin resistance,
  • type 2 Diabetes, and
  • fatty liver disease.

More recently, daily intake of added sugars has also been associated with an overall increased risk of death. According to this study published in the journal Circulation last month (April 2019), “every 12 oz serving of sugary drink was associated with a 7% increase risk of death from any cause, 5% increase risk of death from cancer, and a 10% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.”

That’s the bad news. The good news is that because sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet, cutting them out can have a huge impact on health.

Before you can do that, though, you need to know exactly what a sugary drink is. Here is a simple list provided by the Harvard School of Public Health, “soda, pop, cola, tonic, fruit punch, lemonade (and other “ades”), sweetened powdered drinks, as well as sports and energy drinks.”

Another way to know if a beverage has added sugar is to check its nutrition label and list of ingredients. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a sugary drink is any liquid sweetened with sugar or any one of the following ingredients:

  • brown sugar,
  • corn sweetener,
  • corn syrup,
  • dextrose,
  • fructose,
  • glucose,
  • high-fructose corn syrup,
  • honey,
  • lactose,
  • malt syrup,
  • maltose,
  • molasses,
  • raw sugar,
  • and sucrose.

Unfortunately fruit juices, even those without added sugars, are also considered too high in sugar. This is because the natural sugar in fruit is concentrated and most of the fiber has been removed.

So, does this mean you can only drink water? No, though water is the best thing you can give your body.

There are plenty of delicious beverages without added sugar like sparkling water, black coffee, tea, and milk. In many cases, artificially sweetened drinks are also preferred over sugar sweetened ones, though you should ask your doctor about that. The CDC has a Rethink What You Drink information page to help people understand healthier beverage choices. Also, the city of Boston has a red light green light campaign to help you educate your children (and yourself) on how to approach drinks in vending machines and beyond.

If you consume a large amount of soda or other sugary drinks, it’s a good idea to have your health checked. Problems associated with their intake, like high blood pressure and type II diabetes, are not always obvious or even symptomatic. Contact our office today and make an appointment to get yourself checked out.