|US children, adults still favor sugary beverages, but low-calorie drinks gaining ground|
|March 26, 2013|
Sugary, higher-calorie beverages still rule among American consumers, but low-calorie drinks are quickly closing the gap in households with and without children.
Those are the findings of a new study titled, "Trends in purchases and intake of foods and beverages containing caloric and low-calorie sweeteners over the last decade in the U.S.," published online March 25 in Pediatric Obesity by researchers from the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health.
The study, which spanned 10 years, is the first to compare caloric beverages and low-calorie foods and beverages by analyzing the actual ingredients of these products. The study also looked a third category of newly emerging food and beverage products that mix both caloric and noncaloric sweeteners, which is typical with many sports drinks.
The study examined consumer purchases of 140,352 unique households, comprising 408,458 individuals, from the years 2000 to 2010. Households were selected from the Nielsen Homescan, and product content was analyzed for sweetener type using the Gladson Nutrition Database. Low-calorie beverages were identified as those containing 3.8 kcal per gram or less; caloric drinks contained in excess of 3.8 kcal per gram.
"The food industry is trying many ways to reduce the caloric content of foods and beverages, said Barry M. Popkin, PhD, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health. "We are increasingly seeing them replace caloric sweeteners with low-calorie sweeteners. This trend has particularly emerged in the last three to four years as U.S. concern about obesity, diabetes and other complications of consuming excessive sugary high-calorie beverages has increased."
The researchers found that while per capita intake of sugary, calorically sweetened drinks remains high in children and adults, the amounts they are drinking on a daily basis has decreased significantly. Among children ages 2 to 18 years, daily intake totals of calorically sweetened beverages dropped from 616.2 ml/day in 2003 to 460 ml/day in 2010. Among adults, the reduction also was significant, dropping from 536.4 ml/day in 2003 to 441 ml/day in 2010.
Over the same period, per capita intake of low-calorie beverages increased, going from 42.7ml/day in 2003 to 76.8 ml/day among 2- to 18-year-olds and from 172.4 ml/day to 184.5 ml/day among adults.
"The reduction in per capita consumption of sugary, higher-calorie beverages by children was significant," said Carmen Piernas, doctoral candidate in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health's department of nutrition and the study's lead author. "Conversely, per-day intake of low-calorie beverages by children over the same period nearly doubled. This is also significant, even though the overall volume of these beverages is still dwarfed by the amount of sugary beverage per day kids are drinking."
Also notable, purchases and intake of low-calorie beverages and beverages that combine low-calorie and caloric sweeteners (such as popular sports drinks) increased significantly in households with and without children.
Among other notable results, per capita intake of beverages containing caloric sweeteners was significantly higher among white and African-American adults when compared to other demographic groups, but it was virtually identical among white, African-American and Hispanic children.
Overall, the per capita intake and purchases of caloric sweetened beverages was significantly higher among children and African-American, Hispanic and lower-income households when compared to other demographic groups.
"There is concern among many consumers about the health effects of consuming low-calorie or diet sweeteners," noted Popkin. "To date, research has shown no harmful effect nor even an effect on consumption of other sweetened foods and beverages. I would recommend the consumption of these lower-calorie options over other sweetened beverages, although we always would recommend that water or unsweetened tea or coffee be the beverage of choice."
The complete study can be found online.
|Last updated March 26, 2013|