A new study measuring changes in beverage consumption trends in the US concludes that public health measures are needed to address increases in sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol and juices, and patchy switches to reduced fat milk.
In recent years a plethora of new beverage niches have popped up on the market, as manufacturers have sought to quench the public’s thirst for innovation. Most are sweetened with sugar and/or are caffeinated, but there are also many with reduced calories and new flavours.
Barry Popkin of the University of Carolina's Department of Nutrition investigated current and historic beverage intake patterns by looking at four nationally-representative food intake surveys. The surveys collected data on people aged two years and over, whose intake was reported for one or two days. They took place in 1977-8, 1989-91, 1994-6 and 2003-6.
Popkin indentified the changing role of milk consumption during the 20th century as the longest-term shift. Since peaking at the end of WW2, milk drinking has declined steadily, and bit-by-bit Americans have been switching to reduced fat milk and reduced whole milk.
In children aged 2 to 18 years, a decrease in milk drinking was combined with an increase in SSB (including juice), accounting for 154 kcal per day instead of 87.
Among adults aged 19 and over, SSB consumption had almost doubled from 64 to 142kcal/day and alcohol consumption had increased from 45 to 115 kcal/day.
“The consumer shift towards increased levels of SSBs and alcohol, limited amounts of reduced fat milk along with a continued consumption of whole milk, and increase juice intake represent issues to address from a public health perspective,” he concluded in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Physiology & Behaviour.
As for water, the only consistent trend seemed to be an increase in bottled water drinking. However Popkin observed that in the oldest age group, of 60 years and above, total beverage intake was very low in the most recent surveys. They were seen to be drinking an average of 2099ml of beverages per day in 2005-6, including water – a considerable drop from the 40 to 59 year-olds, who were 2891ml.
“This is a considerable drop from younger adults and potentially a health concern,” said Popkin.
Physiology & Behaviour (published online ahead of print)
Patterns of beverage use across the lifecycle
Author: Popkin, B