Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in U.S. dramatically higher than 20 years ago

This probably won’t shock anyone, but researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that consumption of soft drinks has shot up considerably over the past two decades.

“More adults are drinking sugar-sweetened beverages and, among those drinkers, consumption has increased,” said Sara N. Bleich, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “From 1988 to 2004, the percentage of sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers increased five percent. Per capita consumption of energy from sugar-sweetened beverages increased 46 kilocalories (kcal) per day, and daily sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among drinkers increased 6 ounces per day.”
The study also examined trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by age, race/ethnicity and weight loss intention. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was highest among young adults (231-289 kcal/day), who consumed roughly 20 percent of their sugar-sweetened beverage calories at work, and lowest among the elderly (68-83 kcal/day). Among race/ethnicity groups, the percentage of sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers and per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was highest among blacks followed by Mexican Americans. Overweight/obese adults who were trying to lose weight were less likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages compared to those who were not, but they still consumed a considerable amount from 1999 to 2004 (278 kcal/day).

When I was in high school in the mid- to late 1980s, anyone walking around with a 64-ounce beverage cup would have to have purchased it at a joke shop like Spencer’s. Now, anyone can stroll out of a 7-11 carrying “Big Gulp” cups full of soda just that large, and no one even notices.


It’s galling that there are idiots running amok in this country howling about how there’s really no problem and pretending that the ugly rise in childhood obesity is harmless, rooted as often as not in some mysterious X-factor or rare disease such as Prader-Willi, or both. It is neither. Concomitant with this rise in sweetened-beverage intake has been a rise in Type II diabetes-like symptoms in kids as young as 10. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not harmless. And it’s not immodfiable.
Rather than propose that people need to accept these children just as they are and “celebrate diversity in body types” (code for “sit on our asses and pretend nothing’s wrong”) across the age spectrum, people need to realize that the critical considerations in this realm do not revolve around cosmetics or shame. Fat activists who want to stay fat themselves are one thing, but for them to project their denialism and emotionally laden opinions on a generation of ever-less-healthy kids is irresponsible to the extent that these blowhards need to be actively shouted down.

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  1. #1 by Rose Colored Glasses on December 14, 2008 - 9:10 pm

    Next visit to the supermarket, take the time to traverse the sugar water aisles — which includes ‘soft drinks’ and fruit juices, the latter of which are marketed as ‘healthful’.
    Fifty years ago, a juice glass — for the one-a-day helping of fruit juice — held five fluid ounces. And the juice back then was either fresh (pasteurized) or frozen concentrate.
    Today they can put cheap pineapple juice and cheap grape juice as the major constituent for something passed off as cranberry juice or other expensive juices as a way cheat people. They can boost the caloric load with , high fructose corn syrup. Naturally it helps people get addicted to sugars.
    Thanks to television, people now believe a single serving of juice as at least 16 fluid ounces.
    Even real 100% fruit juice is basically sugar water. We’d all be better off eating the fruit instead, as the fiber content would slow the digestion of the sugars, easing the insulin demand, and at the same time improving digestion.

  2. #2 by chezjake on December 14, 2008 - 9:16 pm

    In that same time period (mid-90s) we had the beverage industry transition where the “standard” vending machine soda went from a 12 oz. can to a 20 oz. bottle.
    They used to say that a 12 oz. soda had the equivalent of 7 tsp. of sugar in it. So that’s 11 2/3 tsp. per 20 oz drink.

  3. #3 by Comrade PhysioProf on December 14, 2008 - 9:19 pm

    What Rose Colored Glasses said.

  4. #4 by Nick on December 14, 2008 - 11:15 pm

    The problem extends way beyond just soda. People make poor food choices in general. And it’s not that people want to make unhealthy choices, they are just making the cheapest choices. Thanks to massive government subsidies corn is cheap and abundant. As a result, high fructose corn syrup and corn fed beef are everywhere.
    It would be a lot easier to convince people to eat healthier if healthy foods were also cheap. We need to start reducing corn subsidies and start subsidizing other, healthier fruits and vegetables. Buying veggies other than corn or potatoes while maintaining a good caloric intake is prohibitively expensive for low income families. So they end up buying very starchy foods and low quality, fatty ground beef.

  5. #5 by becca on December 15, 2008 - 1:01 am

    I hate big gulps.
    They’re way too puny.
    I prefer to do soda keg stands. In front of diabetes symposiums. Because I can.

  6. #6 by llewelly on December 15, 2008 - 1:37 am

    One item left unmentioned. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is strongly correlated with time spent watching commercials. And the same is true for essentially every food or drink associated with dangerous obesity. Advertising works, and obesity food industry has spent billions on it. Want to lose weight? Recycle your televisions. Obesity will continue to spiral out of control until advertising of food changes dramatically.

  7. #7 by speedwell on December 15, 2008 - 10:23 am

    About eight months ago, my doctor put me on potassium-sparing high blood pressure medication and told me to lose weight, and also told me to drink Gatorade. I thought it had something to do with the medication.
    No, now that a different doctor in the same clinic just diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes, I found out that the other doctor apparently routinely tells overweight people to drink Gatorade because it has half the sugar in soda. Folks, I drank plain water with a little lemon before I went to that doctor. No soda. Very little juice. I may be fat, but not between the ears.
    The new doctor apparently thinks that all the sugary Gatorade I drank on the other doctor’s orders might have triggered the diabetes. Thanks (to the other doctor) for nothing.

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