The newest data on Americans’ consumption of sugary drinks is out, and it isn't great.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, half of the population age 2 and older consumes sugary drinks -- meaning soda, sweetened bottled water, sports and energy drinks and fruit drinks (but not 100-percent juice) -- every day. This is in spite of recommendations from groups like the American Heart Association, which advocates drinking fewer than three cans of soda, or the caloric equivalent thereof, per week.
The new report also finds that quarter of Americans drink at least 200 calories per day -- the equivalent of more than one can of soda -- while a small percentage far exceeds that.
"There’s a steep increase among the highest consumers," said Cynthia Ogden, Ph.D., a researcher with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and one of the study’s authors. "Five percent of the population consumes more then four, 12-ounce cans of cola each day. That’s a lot!"
Research has shown that drinking sugary beverages leads to greater overall calorie consumption and can increase risk for obesity and Type II diabetes in adults.
Other trends highlighted in the CDC report include the fact that men consume more sugary drinks than women, black and Mexican American adults drink more than whites and low income individuals drink more sugary drinks relative to their overall diet than those with higher income.
Among the worst offenders in terms of daily consumption? Boys, age 2 to 19 -- 70 percent of whom consume sugary drinks on any given day.
"Especially in this teenage and young adult category, the averages are far higher than the recommendations," Ogden said, pointing out that only a small number -- 1.4 percent -- of the calories consumed from sugar drinks are consumed in school or daycare settings. Which could mean that parents are still able to exert a relative amount of control over their childrens' drinking habits.
As an alternative to sugary drinks, Toby Smithson, R.D., a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, recommends water. If people are looking for a little bit of a “spark,” she suggested they add lemon, lime or orange for natural flavoring.
HuffPost blogger and child obesity specialist Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, author of Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, also said that lower-calorie options like G2 and Crystal Light, when consumed in moderation, are fine alternatives.
But diet soda, which has been under increased scrutiny given research suggesting it is associated with increased stroke and heart attack risk as well as decreased calcium absorption in women, would not be her first choice as a replacement.
"There is a lot more research being done [on diet soda], and some is compelling that perhaps it’s not as good for us as possible," she said. "We don’t have an answer yet, more work needs to be done."