Americans’ Sugar Intake Same as 7 Years Ago – But Why?
"We need to have a culture change around soda"
Oh, America. You were doing such a good job of cutting your sugar intake, but you’re back to drinking too many sugary beverages. Statistics released by the CDC in January show that after a decade of falling consumption, Americans of all ages are consuming the same amount of sugary drinks as they were in 2009-2010, which is when the last time the CDC published comparable data. 
Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, said:
“The amount of sugar that children in particular consume is still astounding. We recommend that children drink soda once a week or less. We’re seeing that two-thirds drink it on a daily basis.”
You would think that with all the warnings about sugar consumption and the glut of health problems it causes, more people would swap soda, coffee drinks, and energy drinks for a cool glass of water. But that’s not the case, and CDC officials can’t fully explain why, though they have a couple of theories.
One possibility is that sales of teas, flavored waters, energy drinks, and other amped-up beverages are rising, even as soda sales are dropping. The market research firm Euromonitor has data that seems to back that theory.
Its numbers show that the U.S. market for conventional carbonated sodas contracted .6% between 2011 and 2016. During that same period, sales of energy drinks, sports drinks, and iced teas and bottled coffees grew by between 5% and 13%.
Another theory is that the initial decline in sugary-drink consumption occurred among upper-income individuals and others who were particularly receptive to changing their diet habits.
Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said:
“My guess is that we might be seeing different trends by age and socioeconomic status. People with higher levels of education and income have made dramatic changes to their diets overall in recent years. Many people with lower levels of education and income have seen no improvement.”
Other Sugar Findings by the CDC
The CDC also found:
- In 1999-2000, the average adult consumed 196 calories’ worth of sweetened drinks daily. That number fell to 151 by 2009-2010.
- From 2011-2014, the average adult drank 145 calories’ worth of sugary beverages a day. That means that roughly 30% consumed 2 or more sugar-sweetened drinks on a daily basis, accounting for more than 10% of their total daily calories.
- Children drank 223 calories of soda and other drinks in 1999 and 155 calories in 2009. That number has remained at 143 since then, representing 7.3% of a child’s calorie intake, on average. The most recent declines were not considered statistically significant.
- Nearly 2/3 of American children consumed at least 1 sugary drink a day.
- Among children ages 2-19, 64.5% of boys and 61.3% consumed at least 1 sugar-sweetened beverage a day.
- Children 12-19 consumed more sugary drinks on average than younger children.
Current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend consuming less than 10% – just 6 teaspoons – of your daily calories from added sugars, and limiting or removing sugary drinks from your diet.
Asher Rosinger, epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC and lead author of the study, said:
“If you extrapolate our findings out, that means 111 million adults and 147 million kids still drink at least some sugar-sweetened beverage daily.
This study is important, because consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, dental caries (cavities) and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) in children, all of which have serious negative downstream health consequences.” 
Kids consume more soda and sugary beverages and they go through adolescence. However, today’s seniors don’t drink much soda because they didn’t drink much soda growing up. Tomorrow’s senior citizens may be the exact opposite.
Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said the notion is worrisome and added:
“We need to have a culture change around soda, the same way we had a culture change around drunk driving, smoking, bike helmets for kids, car seats, and seat belts.”
One of the cultural changes on experts’ wish lists is for the beverage industry to stop marketing to children, which many processed food makers have already done. They would also like to see more soda taxes. Consumption has dropped as much as 20% in the past 3 years in Berkeley, California, where the nation’s first soda tax was approved.
 The Washington Post
Julie Fidler has written hundreds of articles on key world topics such as health, drugs, and law. She is also the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. Oh, and she loves to take care of two ridiculously- spoiled cats in her free time.