Despite longstanding calls by health experts to put down the soda, Americans continue to enjoy their sugar-sweetened drinks.
Nearly two-thirds of children in the United States reported consuming at least one soda or other sugary drink on any given day, according to new federal statistics released Thursday.
More than 60 percent of all kids and teens ages 2-19 had at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day between 2011 and 2014. The consumption of sugary drinks generally increased among children as they got older, with boys drinking more of them than girls, the study found.
On average, 2- to 19-year-old boys consumed 164 calories from such drinks, which contributed to 7.3 percent of their total daily intake of calories. Girls ages 2-19 drank 121 calories from sugary drinks on average, or 7.2 percent of a day’s worth of total calories.
The study was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The agency also issued a separate report on grown-ups: 53.6 percent of U.S. men and 45.1 percent of U.S. women age 20 and over reported drinking at least one sugary beverage on any given day.
Men were also more likely to consume two or more such drinks in one day than women, the study found. Adults 39 and younger also were more likely to have a sugary drink than their older counterparts.
Both studies found large disparities among ethnic groups: whites, blacks and Hispanics drank about twice as many calories from sugary drinks than Asians.
Beverages considered to be “sugar-sweetened” in both studies include regular soda, fruit drinks (such as sweetened bottled waters and fruit juices and nectars with added sugars), sports and energy drinks, pre-sweetened coffee and tea, and other sugar-sweetened beverages. Beverages that did not fall into the category include diet drinks, 100 percent fruit juice, alcohol, flavored milks and drinks such as coffees and tea that participants sweetened themselves.
When people try to eliminate soda from their diets, many end up replacing it with popular substitutes that have just as much sugar, said Alyssa Moran, a registered dietitian and researcher who recently studied the nutritional content of restaurant meals aimed at children.
“Fruit drinks, sport drinks, energy drinks and sweetened teas are just as closely linked to negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease as soda,” she said.
While many consumers recognize the negative health effects of drinking soda, they sometimes view other sugary drinks as a healthier alternative because of the way the products are advertised, she said.
“Many of these beverages feature nutrient or ‘natural’ claims that can influence consumer perceptions about the healthfulness of the product,” said Moran, a doctoral candidate in nutrition at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health.
The new numbers don’t reflect a big change since the last time similar studies were conducted. From 2009-2010, U.S. youth consumed an average of 155 calories a day from sugar-sweetened drinks, which contributed to 8 percent of their total daily caloric intake.
While the most recent figures represent a slight drop, they remain above recommended limits.
Current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that added sugars not exceed 10 percent of all calories in an individuals’ diet.
The American Heart Association recommends that most children ages 2 and older get no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars, including sugary beverages. For most adults, the AHA recommends no more than about 150 calories a day from added sugars for men and no more than about 100 calories from added sugars a day for women.
Yet, the new CDC study found that 18 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys drank at least two sugary drinks a day. About 10 percent of kids drank three or more.
The reports also noted that studies have suggested a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and dental cavities, weight gain and other health conditions in both adults and children.
And last year, research published in the AHA’s journal Circulation found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every day was associated with an increase in a particular type of body fat that may affect diabetes and heart disease risk.