The consequences could affect weight and, especially for children and youth, intake of calcium and vitamins.
The data comes from three food surveys of more than 73,000 Americans. Conducted between 1977 and 2001, the surveys included age groups from 2-year-old toddlers through senior citizens 60 or older.
Barry Popkin, PhD, nutrition professor and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center, reviewed the studies with UNC nutrition graduate student Samara Joy Nielsen, BS.
Soft Drink Statistics
Their findings include:
The numbers might be low because some overweight people underreport how much they eat and drink, says Popkin.
The researchers voiced concern about the calcium and vitamins missed when children consume soft drinks instead of milk, as well as the extra calories from soft drinks.
"The obesity epidemic may be aggravated by the increase in sweetened beverage intake," write Popkin and Nielsen.
"Little research has focused on the beneficial impacts of reduced soft drink and fruit drink intake. This would seem to be one of the simpler ways to reduce obesity in the United States," write Popkin and Nielsen.
The type of sweetener in soft drinks also drew attention.
"Most soft drinks were made with sucrose (table sugar) in the 1970s, while in the 1990s and currently they are made with high-fructose corn syrup," write the researchers. High contents of fructose can increase the levels of triglycerides a blood fat seen in association with diabetes and to some extent heart disease.
"As yet it is unclear how much of a role this has played in the obesity epidemic, but it may be a cause for concern."
The study, funded by the National Dairy Council and the National Institutes of Health, appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
SOURCES: Popkin, B. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, October 2004. News release, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
By Miranda Hitti, WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
© 2004, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved