Current Issue

In the past 50 years, the size of a carbonated soft drink container has increased by two to three times from 6.75-ounce bottles in the 1950s to 12-ounce and 20-ounce containers that are commonly sold today. Yet there is little public awareness that people may be drinking themselves fat with sodas.

Soft drinks fuel weight gain

A regular can of soda supplies around 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Thus, it’s not surprising that a recent study released by the New South Wales Centre for Public Health Nutrition in Australia, titled “Soft Drinks, Weight Status, and Health,” finds strong evidence of a link between soft drinks and obesity.

In one effort to stem the obesity epidemic, the New York City health department is running an evocative campaign, “Are you pouring on the pounds?” that urges consumers to switch to more nutritious and sugar-free fluids.

Who’s most at risk?

North Americans and Australians are high consumers of soda drinks, ranking in the top 10 countries based on market share. Adolescents, especially males, consume the most, with one Australian survey finding that teens down almost a liter of soft drinks daily! Younger children, such as toddlers, also consume significant amounts, as do indigenous groups and families of low socioeconomic status.

The good news is that several clinical trials with adults and children have shown that reducing the amount of soda a person drinks can result in significant weight loss, or at least stop the weight gain pattern. And the heaviest adolescents are the biggest winners.

4 ways to cut back on soft drinks

  1. Replace soft drinks with water, which contains zero calories and protects your health in other vital ways. Use a refillable water bottle, and carry it with you.
  2. Reduce the frequency and quantity of soda consumption. Limit yourself to one soft drink per week or less, and then have only one glass or small can.
  3. Offer water and reduced-fat milk to young children instead of sodas.
  4. Best of all, avoid having sugary drinks in the house at all, and lead by example.

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See for more nutrition information.

Food Matters: Liquid Calories to Burn

by Sue Radd
From the February 2010 Signs