Using sugar as a scapegoat for obesity is not a new tactic. But as a recent Well blog in the New York Times states “simply focusing on sugar will do little to quell the rising epidemic of obesity.”

We thought we’d take a closer look at sugar, soft drinks and obesity – by the numbers.

As we’ve written before, sugar-sweetened beverages are not a unique contributor to weight gain or obesity.  By nearly every measure calories from soft drinks are playing a small and declining role in the American diet:

Calories from sugar-sweetened beverages declined by more than 20 percent between 2001 and 2010. The average number of calories per beverage serving is down 23 percent since 1998 Calories from added sugar in soda have declined 39 percent since 2000. And 45 percent of all non-alcoholic beverages purchased today have zero calories.

A recent report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2013) and summarized by Reuters Health found added sugar and soft drink consumption down among U.S. children:

In 2010, U.S. children consumed 68 fewer calories per day from added sugar in soda than 2000.

Adults, too.

There’s no denying that we are eating more and moving less, but singling out sugar – specifically sugar-sweetened beverages – is misguided.    In fact, boiling the obesity problem down to one product and one source of calories is a distraction from meaningful solutions. Obesity is a complex problem; and we need a comprehensive approach to address it.