The report, published Feb. 26, shows 30.1% of adults in 23 states and the District of Columbia drink one or more sugary drinks daily, including regular soda, fruit drinks, sweet eat and sports or energy drinks.
These results, based on a survey of more than 157,000 adults in 2013, are “somewhat lower” than the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey finding that 50.6% of US adults drank at least one sugar sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the study.
The drop could be due to differences in how the two studies were conducted, but even if it is not, the prevalence of sugary beverage consumption is still too high – especially among certain sub-populations, argue the researchers of the current study.
They explain that frequent sugar sweetened beverage consumption is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Likewise, some groups of people may be at higher risk of these consequences because they drink more sugary drinks.
Namely, young adults, men, non-Hispanic blacks, the unemployed and those with less than a high school education are more at risk because they drink more sugar sweetened drinks, the survey found.
In particular, it found 18- to 24-year-olds were 2.3 times more likely to drink more than one sugary beverage a day than people older than 55 years. Men also were 1.4 more times likely to drink sugary beverages than women, while blacks and Hispanics were 1.5 and 1.4 times more likely than whites, respectively, according to the study.
Sugar sweetened beverage consumption also varied by region, with those in the Northeast and South more likely to drink sugary beverages than those in the Midwest. The research found 68.4% of adults in the Northeast drink at least one sugary beverage daily, compared to 66.7% in the South and 58.9% in the Midwest.
Reflecting on the survey results and shift in soda consumption over time, the authors argue “continuation of public health efforts aimed at decreasing high [sugar sweetened beverages] intake is important.”
They suggest “education and awareness initiatives, increasing access to and promotion of healthier options though nutrition standards, including food guidelines and increasing the availability and promotion of drinking water in schools and public venues.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest agrees effective policies could do more to protect the public’s health.
“We need soda taxes and warning labels. We need to continue the push to remove sugar drinks from kid’s meals at restaurants, hospitals and health-care settings, and government facilities,” CSPI President Michael Jacobson said in a written statement.
“Public health departments need to mount and sustain hard-hitting ad campaigns that tell consumers the truth about the harm that sugar drinks cause,” he added.
Politicians & restaurants respond
Some state legislators, restaurants and public health advocates are rising to this call for action.
Most recently, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney proposed a 3 cent tax per ounce on sugar sweetened beverages. The proposal, introduced in late February, could help pay for Kenney’s ambitious plans, including a goal of providing universal prekindergarten.
The only other US city that has a sugar tax like this is Berkeley, Calif., although other cities have proposed similar taxes in the past.
Similarly, legislation put forward in New York would require warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages in the state – a measure supported by scientists, researchers and CSPI.
Finally, several restaurants are removing sodas from children’s menus. Jack in the Box made the move earlier in February, following the lead of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen and Applebee’s.