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Soda and ‘energy drinks’ are part of country’s obesity problem

Posted 19 March 2014 at 12:00 am

By Nola Goodrich-Kresse, Public Health Educator for the Orleans County Health Department

When was the last time you thought about what you were drinking? Did you know that the rising trend in obesity rates in the nation have followed the rising trend of sugar-sweetened beverages?

Sugar-sweetened beverages are considered any beverage with more than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving. According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, research shows that caloric intake from soft drinks has increased by 228 percent between 1977 and 2001, and that the portion sizes have increased from 6.5 fluid ounces in the 1950s to more than 20 fluid ounces today. The average American consumes 50 gallons of soda or other sweetened beverages each year.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are not limited to soda (or pop, depending on where you are from), but also include non-100 percent fruit drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, energy drinks, and pre-sweetened tea and coffee.

These drinks are high in calories, have no nutritional value and include any of the following sweeteners:  sucrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sugar and syrup. Each day the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar, much more than the recommended 5 to 9 teaspoons per day.

Another concern is the so-called “energy” drinks. These are mostly made up of water, sugar and caffeine along with other additives. Not only do these drinks provide empty calories, but the higher levels of caffeine are known to increase jitteriness, irritability and effect normal sleep patterns, which can have an effect on concentration and alertness, when having too many energy drinks.

Studies have shown caffeine can increase blood pressure and increase heart rates. According to a recent MedicineNet article, the average American takes in about 280 mg/day of caffeine. An 8-ounce serving of regular black brewed coffee is about 135 mg and an 8 ounce cup of black tea is 40-70 mg.  Some of the energy drinks have two or three times the amount of caffeine and generally are a serving size of 12 to 20 ounces.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy your favorite beverages in moderation and try some new low/no calorie drinks:

Choose water as your beverage of choice throughout the day, every day.

Add some fruit to your water to give it a little flavor. Lemons, limes, strawberries, even cucumber can give your water a boost of flavor. Be creative.

Drink unsweetened tea or coffee. Add some lemon, lime, or cinnamon stick to your hot or cold plain tea. Add a drop of vanilla, almond or other flavoring to your hot or cold plain coffee.

Drink from a cup instead of a bottle. Most bottled beverages are more than 8-ounces. If you have a favorite glass or cup, find out how much liquid it holds before using it.

If you want to have a sugar-sweetened beverage, only have a limited amount, such as 8 ounces and only 1 or 2 days a week. Check the serving size on the bottle to find out how many calories are in 1 serving and multiply it according to how much you plan on drinking.

If you notice you are having trouble sleeping, seem more irritable or jittery and have trouble concentrating and staying alert, limit caffeinated beverages.

Measure out 17 teaspoons of sugar and put it in a dry 20-ounce beverage bottle to give yourself a picture of how much sugar you are drinking. Keep it near your fridge to remind you of what your sugar-sweetened drinks contain.

Remember any sugar-sweetened beverage should be considered a treat, not a daily choice. Helping limit the amount of these calories can help limit the effects of becoming obese.