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Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Research and Policy

The Problem:


•Ø  Average per capita consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is 46 gallons/year; that equals about 40 pounds of sugar. 1

•Ø  Sugar-sweetened beverages are the food group most strongly linked increased rates of obesity and risk for diabetes.2

•Ø  Sixty-one percent of adult New Yorkers report regularly consuming sugar-sweetened soft drinks; 22% of adults and 25% of adolescents report drinking at least one can or bottle per day of sweetened soft drink.3

•Ø  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), per capita soft-drink consumption has increased almost 500 percent over the past 50 years. 4

•Ø  People are often unaware of the number of calories and amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages.  A 20-ounce bottle of Coca Cola has more than 15 teaspoons of sugar and 240 calories, more than 10% of the average number of calories a person needs to consume in a day.5

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Hurt Kids:


•Ø  According to the NYS Department of Health, 1 in 3 children in the state is now overweight or obese.

•Ø  Each additional 12-ounce soft drink consumed per day by children increases their odds of becoming obese by 60%. 7

•Ø  A recent study found that consumption of sweetened beverages by youth, ages 2-18 years, increased from 87 kcal/day in 1977-1978 to 254 kcal/day in 2005-2006; a 75% increase.8

•Ø  Intake of sweetened beverages was the only dietary practice that was consistently linked to overweight in children. 9

•Ø  Among young children, aged 1 through 5 years, consumption of sweetened, carbonated soft drinks was associated with an 80-100% increased risk of dental cavities. 10

•Ø  Sweetened beverages such as soda are a discretionary item in the diet; they provide many calories but no essential nutrients.2


Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Hurt Adults:

•Ø  Currently 25% of New York adults are obese and another 35% are overweight. 2

•Ø  Obese and overweight adults were more likely to consume sodas than normal weight adults (33% and 29% vs. 24%, respectively). 11

•Ø  High soft drink consumption increases risk of diabetes by 83% in women.12

•Ø  A 2005 survey found that women who consumed one or more sodas per day were on average 0.7 BMI (Body Mass Index) units heavier than women who consumed less than one soda per day. 11

•Ø  A 4-year study of men and women in the Framingham Heart Study found that those who drank one or more sodas per day were 50% more likely to develop metabolic syndrome (a combination of risk factors, such as high waist circumference, high blood pressure, impaired fasting glucose or diabetes, that strongly predicts the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease) than those who drank less than one soda per week.13


The Economic Impact:

•Ø   An estimated $7.6 billion is spent annually on obesity-related health problems in New York.2

•Ø  Obesity costs each NYS household $771 per year for public and private health care programs.2

•Ø  Because of the contribution of the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity, as well as the health consequences that are independent of weight, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages generates excess health care costs.14


A Proposed Solution: Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax:

•Ø An excise tax of 1 cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages would be expected to increase the price of sugar-sweetened soft drinks by 17% on average and reduce consumption by a minimum of 10 percent.

The impact on youth would be even higher.2

•Ø  Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by 10 percent would save about 7,400 calories per year and could reduce yearly weight gain by 2 pounds.2

•Ø  The sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax would raise approximately $1 billion a year.2 


Interesting Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Facts:

•Ø  In 2008, Coca-Cola Company spent $752,000,000 on advertising/marketing in the

United States while PepsiCo spent $1,294,000,000 1

•Ø  Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest single source of added sweeteners in the

US diet.2

  •Ø  Soft drink intake is associated with lower intakes of milk, calcium and other nutrients.16

•Ø  A 75 pound child would need to bicycle vigorously for about 30 minutes to burn off the calories in a 12-ounce can of soda.17

•Ø  An average adult would need to walk 25 minutes at a moderate pace to burn off the extra calories in one 12-ounce can of soda, or 46 minutes to burn the calories in a 20-ounce soda.17



1. Bleich, SN, Wang YC, Wang Y, Gortmaker SL : Increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among US adults: 1988–1994 to 1999–2004. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89: 372-381.

2. Department of Health. (2009). Sugar-sweetened Beverage Tool Kit Retrieved from http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/sdtaxes_nys_soda_lit_rev.pdf

3. NYS DOH: Summary – Beverage Tax 01/20/2010, Available from NYS DOH Obesity Prevention. Preliminary data from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2009.

4. Food and consumption (per capita) data system. USDA Economic Research Services. Available at www.ers.usda.gov.

5. Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress (July 2008). Marketing food to children and adolescents. A review of industry expenditures, activities and self-regulation. http://www.ftc.gov/os/2008/07/P064504foodmktingreport.pdf (accessed February 4, 2009).

6. Retrieved from http://www.health.state.ny.us/prevention/obesity/strategic_plan/major_threat.htm  (Figure 6)

7. Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet. 2001;357(9255):505-508.

8. Popkin BM.. Patterns of beverage use across the lifecycle, Physiol Behav (2010), doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.12.0

9. Crawford PB, Woodward-Lopez G, Ritchie L, Webb K. How discretionary can we be with sweetened beverages for children? J Am.Diet.Assoc. 2008;108(9):1440-1444.

10. Marshall TA, Levy SM, Broffitt B,

WarrenJJ, Eichenberger-Gilmore JM, Burns TL, Stumbo PJ. Dental caries and beverage consumption in young children. Pediatrics. 2003;112(3 Pt 1):e184-e191.

11. Rehm CD, Matte TD, Van WG, Young C, Frieden TR. Demographic and behavioral factors associated with daily sugar-sweetened soda consumption in

New York Cityadults. J Urban Health. 2008;85(3):375-385

12. Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA. 2004;292(8):927-934.

13. Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, Wang TJ, Fox CS, Meigs JB, D'Agostino RB, Gaziano JM, Vasan RS. Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community. Circulation. 2007;116(5):480-488.

14. Brownell  KD, Farley T, Willet WC, Popkin BM, Chaloupka FJ. The public health and economic benefits of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages. NEJM 2009:361:1599-1605

15. Advertising Age, Marketer Trees; 2008

U.S. ad spending Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo

16. Vartanian LR

Schwartz MB, Brownell KD. Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am.J.Public Health. 2007;97(4):667-675.

17.  Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Physical activity for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Available from http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.htm


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