How about a little quiz for a change? (Actually, you take the quiz every time you buy one at the grocery or gas station or when you offer one to your child).

Let's start with the basics: what are sugar sweetened beverages and what beverages do they include? That's easy, right? They are the liquids that have sugar added, whether its sucrose (table sugar), juice concentrates or high fructose corn syrup, which we'll discuss shortly. And they're found in soft drinks (sodas), fruit drinks, sweetened tea and lemonade. Did you also include sports drinks and lemonade?

How much of these beverages do we drink? Enough that they represent 12-13% of the daily calories adults and adolescents consume. That represents a 230% increase in soft drinks and 170% increase in fruit drinks over the 25 years from 1977-2002.

How much sugar is that? In a 12 ounce can of soda, you drink 10 teaspoons of sugar. How much do you think is in fruit juice? Apple juice has exactly the same amount--and grape juice actually has 50% more--and that's the natural kind--without any sugar added.


Fluid Calories and Nutrients (per 8 Ounces)


                                       Calories     Sugar (g)     Protein (g)             Other Nutrients

Water                                0                0                   0                          Water itself

Milk                                 160            1 2                  8                   Vitamins A and D. Ca, P

Apple juice                     105            26                  0                           Vitamin C

Grape juice                    160            58.5               0                           Vitamin C

Carrot juice                      43            10                   1                  Vitamins A and C, minerals

Celery juice                      40             5                   1                      Vitamin C, minerals

Sports Drinks                   50           10-14               0                   Sodium and potassium

Coca Cola                         94            26                 0                                Water

g = grams


So why do so many people drink so much? Lots of reasons. The sweet taste is very appealing, and new research looking at brain scans shows that carbonation actually changes the way brain centers process the sensation of sweetness and that may make you want more. Second, they are relatively inexpensive--and all the supersizing far exceeds the 8 ounce suggested serving. And behind it all is the massive advertising--700 billion dollars in 2000, just to make you want specific soft drinks.

Why are the SSBs, as they're called, so bad for you? The extra calories are bad enough especially since they aren't accompanied by any nutrients (please refer to the table again), but worse, the high fructose corn solids bypass some of the digestive processes and get metabolized into fat.

But that's adults, isn't it? Actually, a new study shows that 2-5 year olds who drink more SSBs have significantly higher BMIs than those who don't drink the SSBs (J Pediatrics 2013: pages 413-20).

Bottom Line: Far too many calories come from SSBs and this is particularly detrimental when they have high fructose corn syrup added.