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Sugary Beverages Fuel the Obesity Epidemic

Over the past 20 years or so, Americans have developed quite the sweet tooth, with an annual consumption of sweeteners at about 100 pounds per person. During these// same years, many more Americans—particularly children—have become overweight and obese. Added sweeteners, such as high-fructose corn syrup, may be one of the major reasons, says the October 2006 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Sweeteners added to sports beverages and juice drinks are particularly troubling because many people think those drinks are healthful. But studies have shown that people don’t cut back on their overall calorie intake to offset the extra calories from such beverages. Researchers are beginning to document the adverse health outcomes. Harvard researchers recently reported that women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day were 83% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who drank less than one a month. Not surprisingly, they were also more likely to gain weight.

The Harvard Health Letter notes that one of the problems with sweetened beverages is that they are watery. High-calorie drinks that are low-viscosity (thin) may deceive us by preventing our bodies from 'reading' calories, a capacity that depends, in part, on the thickness of a liquid.

In March 2006, the Beverage Guidance Panel issued a proposed 'guidance system for beverage consumption.' The six-level system emphasizes beverages with no or few calories—especially water—over those with more calories. It also recommends drinking no more than 8 fluid ounces of sweetened sodas, juice drinks, or energy/sports drinks per day.

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