This Article is About
soft drinks
american journal of clinical nutrition
journal of clinical nutrition
obesity epidemic
obese adults
health care costs
food choices
risk of obesity
obese children
type 2 diabetes
Soft Drinks And Obesity, A Costly Connection
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Obesity has many causes, some more obvious than others. However the obesity and soft drink connection is a costly one. We all seem to agree that better food choices are the answer, or do we? The fast food industry invests $4 billion dollars annually in marketing unhealthy products...and will continue to do so as long as we respond by continuing to purchase them. In contrast, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency in the Department of Agriculture dedicated to "Improving the nutrition and well being of Americans," has an annual budget of just $13 million.

The results are obvious in the obesity epidemic in the United States. Two thirds of us are considered either overweight or obese. In addition, we have experienced a doubling in the percentage of obese adults and a tripling in the number of obese children in the last 30 years according to a recent article in the New York Times which also stated that a third of us are either diabetic or prediabetic. Obesity related health care costs continue to rise and make a substantial contribution to our overall health care costs.

What is the evidence linking soft drinks and obesity? A 2006 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 39 years of studies and concluded that the majority of the evidence supports a connection between sugar sweetened drinks and weight gain. Furthermore, they conclude that the evidence is strong enough to encourage public health strategies designed to promote a reduction in sugary beverage consumption as a way to improve America's health.

A 2009 article published in the same journal examined national trends in soft drink consumption between 1998 and 2004. The findings showed an increase in the percentage of adults drinking sugar sweetened beverages as well as an increase in the per capita consumption of these same drinks. They also found that consumption of these beverages was highest among groups at the greatest risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Unlike many other fast foods, soft drinks can be particularly hazardous because they manage to provide lots of sugary calories without filling you up. In other words, the calories are totally empty and you still have to find something to eat because you're still hungry. Dr. Kelly Brownell, et al. in a 2009 article in the New England Journal of medicine reported on several studies which showed that both adults and children who drink sugar sweetened beverages take in more total calories than those who don't.

What are some of the economic costs of this soft drink and obesity connection? The Brownell article states that the annual medical care costs of obesity may be as high as $147 billion which is 9.1% of US health expenditures half of which are paid by Medicare or Medicaid.

Several articles in professional journals and the popular press have promoted the idea of a tax on sugar sweetened beverages as a means to reduce consumption. The July 24th, 2011 article in the New York Times reported that if the cost of sugary drinks increased 20%, consumption would decrease 20%. As a result, over the next decade 1,500,000 fewer Americans would be obese preventing 400,000 cases of diabetes and saving as much as $30 billion.

Are you still drinking sugary beverages? You may be surprised at how much better you and your pocketbook will feel when you stop.


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