Today, The New York Times published a story that shows clearly and scientifically that beverages are not the driving factor behind rising obesity rates in the United States. The story even quotes a known industry critic as expressing dismay with the facts.
“The trend is very unfortunate and very disappointing,” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “Everybody was hoping that with the decline in sugar and soda consumption, that we’d start seeing a leveling off of adult obesity.”
Everybody? No. What everyone is hoping for is that we as a society work together on real solutions to obesity that reflect reality and science. With this article, perhaps that process can begin for the sake of our nation’s health and wellbeing.
What the New York Times reported is that about 38 percent of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014, up from 35 percent in 2011 and 2012. And it pointed out that this happened as consumption of full-calorie soda dropped by 25 percent since the late 1990s.
This finding demonstrates that drinking beverages hasn’t driven up obesity rates, an unscientific claim that Nestle and others have been making for years. This revelation will come as no surprise to the many researchers and nutritionists who have been warning that targeting one item in the grocery cart will not make people healthier, and that sugar from beverages cannot be a unique cause of obesity – especially when sugar-sweetened beverages contribute only about 6 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet.
These experts have been stressing the real solution to obesity – looking at the entire diet, as well as physical activity, and finding ways for people to achieve balance.
Obesity is a complex problem that must be viewed holistically, not by focusing on any one food, beverage or ingredient. Our own USDA has verified this. The USDA monitors caloric intake over the decades and what we are eating and drinking. What it has found is that in the past 40 years the American food supply added an additional 445 calories per day and that has contributed to a rise in obesity. But what are people eating more of?
Of the additional 445 calories we are taking in, sugar from all sources made up only 34 of those calories. The vast majority of the increase is in the consumption of grains and fats.
Keep in mind that sugar from beverages has not gone up at all. It has actually been plummeting. In the last 15 years calories in the American diet from added sugars in soda are down 39 percent.
Anti-soda crusaders who are jumping on beverages as a panacea for good health have been peddling a myth that misleads people into thinking they are one item away from achieving it.
The answer is for all of us – health professionals, industry, policymakers, community groups – to join together and find ways to help people achieve balance. The beverage industry is doing its part.
The industry’s Clear on Calories initiative was launched in 2010 and ensures consumers see how many calories they are getting with every can, bottle and pack before they make a purchase. Through our Calories Count™ program, consumers can “Check Then Choose” the calories in their beverages before making a purchase at a vending machine. We’re also delivering choices by offering a range of beverage options from low- to no- calorie drinks to smaller portions to help Americans find the drink that best fits their lifestyle. Finally, our biggest initiative to-date is the Balance Calories Initiative which encourages Americans to balance everything they eat, drink and do.
Working together we can take on the obesity problem.