Rudd Center reports on sugary drinks

A good long while I ago, I wrote a series of posts a report on the advertising of junk food to children prepared by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. Last week, Yale came out with another f.a.c.t.s. (a rather labored acronym signifying “food advertising to children and teens score”) report, this one on sugary beverages, and I thought I’d follow the same fashion.

I can’t say I needed the report personally because I’m already on this bandwagon. Among foodlike substances, not one is less defensible than sugary sodas. Whereas, say, proponents of pizza — which few would call a staple of a healthy diet — can cite its vegetable and protein content as points in favor, the best soda manufacturers can claim is refreshment.

But that’s not to say the report wasn’t educational. From the executive summary: Even after small rate declines, “every individual in the United States continues to consume on average more than three 8-oz servings of carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, teas, sports drinks, enhanced water, and energy drinks every day.”

Part of that is portion creep, of course. Eight ounces used to be considered a standard size, but that’s almost quaint now. Starbucks’s smallest coffee is 12 ounces, and 20 ounce sodas are in vending machines everywhere.

For the study, Rudd analyzed more than 600 sugary drink and energy drink products, and found that full-calorie varieties add as many as 45 grams of processed sugar in 12 ounces and up to 75 grams in 20 ounces.

What are the implications of that? “Sugary drinks contribute 22 percent of empty calories consumed by children and teens, soda is the number-one source of calories in teens’ diets, and young people consumed 20 percent more calories from sugary drinks in the period from 1999 to 2004 than they did 10 years earlier. Drinking just one 8-ounce sugary drink every day increases a child’s odds of becoming obese by 60 percent,” the report’s executive summary said.

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