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Nutrition Education Program
Nutrition Education Program (NEP) University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528-1507

Think What You Drink

What Does 65 Pounds of Sugar Have to Do With You?

by Mardel Meinke, Extension Educator. This article appeared in the Nebline Newsletter.

This is the amount of sugar consumed if a person drinks only one can of soda a day for one year. Visualize over 16 four-pound bags of sugar stacked up. Add to this the amount of sugar commonly consumed from other food sources. The amount is staggering!

We all know drinking too much soda is probably not good for our health, but few of us consistently choose a healthier alternative. Here are some facts about soda that may inspire you to make some changes in your family's choice of beverages.

Q: Will I gain weight by drinking soda?

12 Teaspoons of Sugar - The same amount of sugar in a 12-ounce can of non-diet soft drinkA. You will certainly add extra calories to your diet. A 12-ounce soda contains 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar content is listed in "grams" on the label. Four grams equal one teaspoon of sugar.

Grab the nearest can of non-diet soda you can find and read the sugar content. It will probably contain around 40 grams of sugar which is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons. Those 10 teaspoons add about 150 calories to your diet. On a 2,000 calorie daily diet, with no other changes to your activity level, you could easily gain up to 15 pounds over a year. It is common to purchase soda in a 20-ounce, 44-ounce, or even 64-ounce size container and sip throughout the day.

Q: Does soda contribute to tooth decay?

A. Sugar in soda certainly can contribute to tooth decay especially if the soda is consumed slowly throughout the day. Soda has no dietary benefits and is acidic which can break down teeth enamel.

Q. Is diet soda a better choice?

A. Diet soda contains almost no calories and does not contain sugar that causes tooth decay.

It contains an artificial sweetener that is not metabolized in our system. There are no nutritional beenfits from diet soda when it replaces other more healthful beverages.

Q: Is the caffeine content in soft drinks harmful?

A. Consuming beverages that contain some caffeine is not harmful for most people, but consuming larger quantities of caffeinated beverages can be mildly habit-forming. Caffeine can cause hyperactivity and sleeplessness, especially in children. Individuals can also experience headaches or other symptoms if they suddenly stop consuming a large quantity of caffeinated soda. Many soft drinks contain 20 to 70 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can. An 8-ounce brewed coffee contains about 80 to 175 milligrams. If a quantity of soda is consumed, the amount of caffeine can easily be comparable to drinking several cups of coffee. Companies are not required to list the caffeine content on the label. Soft drinks that are caffeine-free usually state this on the label.

Q. Are carbonated drinks harmful?

A. Carbonated drinks are not harmful if consumed in small amounts. In some people, large amounts can cause an upset stomach and heartburn. Non-carbonated water satisfies thirst more completely.

So, the issue we faced is whether to continue to drink soda at our current rate of consumption or should we seek other alternatives.

"Soft drinks are a source of calories and little else" states Lisa Hamack, PhD. RD with the University of Minnesota.

By the time kids reach their teen years, nearly a fourth are drinking more than 26-ounces of soda per day. Obesity is becoming a huge health concern. The percentage of overweight adolescents has nearly tripled int he past two decades.

Osteoporosis is another health issue, especially among females. When soda replaces milk there could certainly be an effect on bone strength.

When soda replaces juices, important nutrients such as folate, vitamin A and vitamin C are also lacking.

The positive part is there are choices.

Will we choose to consume those 65 pounds or more of sugar this year, just by drinking soda?

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