Earlier today a Chicago hospital group announced that it will begin eliminating sugar- sweetened beverages from their Chicago-based hospitals, healthcare sites and administrative offices. In fact, it will eventually go so far as to remove even diet beverages – which science shows are useful tools in maintaining a healthy weight. While we admire the ultimate goal of helping people to live a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle, demonizing one food or beverage simply isn’t the solution.
There are a number of problems with this approach:First, you can’t address 100 percent of the obesity challenge by focusing on 7 percent of calories. That’s right – sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet, according to a National Cancer Institute analysis of government data. Even so, consumers are taking advantage of the broad array of beverage options available in today’s marketplace. In fact, due to the introduction of more no- and low-calorie and smaller-portion options, there’s been a 23 percent reduction in the average calories per serving between 1998 and 2010. Second, there’s nothing unique about beverages when it comes to obesity or obesity-related chronic diseases. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight – even if those calories come in the form of an apple, a burger or a piece of pie. Third, bans do nothing to teach Americans about the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. That can only be achieved through education.
The beverage industry is doing its part to help consumers make the choice that’s right for them and their families. From industry innovation to our national School Beverage Guidelines and Clear on Calories initiatives, these are efforts that will have real and lasting impact.