Skipping a sugary beverage a day could help keep the doctor away, at least that’s what new research suggests.
A new study funded by the Drinking Water Research Foundation suggests eliminating the added calories of one beverage a day could impact the obesity epidemic in the United States.
Researchers said emphatically that swapping a sugar-sweetened beverage — including soda or fruit juice — for a glass of water every day is a potential strategy to decrease a person’s risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and more.
“Although trends indicate some decline in intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, most Americans are still consuming too many calories from beverages, and from sugar-sweetened beverages specifically,” the study, published in the journal Nutrients, concludes.
About 35 percent of adult Americans are obese, so experts are seeking meaningful and lasting ways to help improve the health of the nation. Currently, about 30 percent of American adults drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverage a day.
Sodas and other sugary drinks have been the nutritional target for years as cities take a public health approach to beverages spiked with sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to ban oversized sodas, and Philadelphia recently passed a per-ounce soda tax.
What difference does it make?
Liquid calories don’t have a satiating effect, meaning they don’t fill you up.
When drinking sugary beverages, you’re more likely to consume more empty calories.
Groups like the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that sugar constitute less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake.
A 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, one of the most popular soda brands worldwide, contains 240 calories, putting a person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet over their daily sugar intake.
So, what does a single soda a day do in terms of a person’s long-term health?
The researchers say adults who swap a soda for one serving of water take in 33 percent fewer calories per day, bringing their caloric intake from beverages “within the acceptable range.”
If the United States as a whole adopted this strategy, researchers say, obesity rates would decrease from 35 percent to 32 percent.
To determine this, nutrition researchers Kiyah Duffey, Ph.D., of Virginia Tech, and Jennifer Poti, Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examined data from 19,718 American adults.
The data came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, specifically the portion that looked at what Americans drank, from water to meal replacement drinks.
Researchers found those who consumed the most calories from beverages were younger and middle-aged adults. Older adults — those over the age of 65 — consumed the most water.
The largest consumers of sugary beverages are those aged 19 to 24, who drink 2.5 times more water than sugary beverages. Older adults, on the other hand, consume 6.5 times more water daily compared with sugary beverages.
Adolescent consumption of sodas has declined over recent decades, but energy drinks — another source of sugar-based calories — has tripled, the report states.
“What our study does show is that exchanging one soda for water, especially for people who drink fewer numbers of soda each day, is an easy way to save calories and have a positive impact on your health,” Duffey told Healthline.
How to add water to your day
Sodas and other sugary beverages are common sights in gas stations, corner stores, and vending machines all over the country.
Duffey says access to these beverages does have an association with consumption.
The same is true for water.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that increasing access to safe drinking water is one effective strategy in reducing soda intake. Many U.S. cities are adding public water bottle filling stations, including inside major airports.
Besides access, there are healthy ways to flavor water without relying on sugar.
“Finding ways to make water more interesting — adding mint or lemon or cucumber — might make the water more fun,” Duffey said.
Duffey says research shows that parents modeling behavior — both good and bad — is a powerful way to influence their children.
“One of the best things parents can do is not start the habit in the first place. Kids won't ask for soda if they don't know what it is,” she said. “This is also not to say that there is no place for soda in a healthy diet, but the amount and frequency should be carefully considered.”