Americans are filling their glasses with too many sugary drinks and not enough nutrient-rich beverage choices like lowfat milk, which may be affecting their weight and diet quality, suggests a new study presented at the Experimental Biology meeting.
Researchers from ENVIRON International Corporation conducted a comprehensive analysis of U.S. beverage patterns, examining all of the liquids consumed by a national sample of 10,000 adults, teenagers and children. The data were from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) coordinated by the federal government.
The study revealed that among most age groups, the largest proportion of beverage calories comes from sugar-sweetened drinks, a category that includes soft drinks, fruit drinks and presweetened teas. In fact, in some age groups, the average intake of sugar-sweetened drinks was more than three times that of milk.
This trend of sugar-laden drinks replacing milk could be negatively affecting Americans weight. The study found that preteen girls, teenage girls and women ages 19 to 49 whose diets consisted of more milk and fewer sweetened beverages had significantly lower Body Mass Indexes (BMI) compared to those who drank little milk and more sweetened beverages.
"We had little nationwide data among all age groups on the connection between beverage choice and BMI prior to this study," said co-author Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, dean and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. "We know that Americans are consuming an alarming amount of sugary drinks. Furthermore, the consumption of milk beverages in place of these sweetened beverages may play a beneficial role in weight management, particularly among preteen and teenage girls and women."
Additionally, the new analysis found that the choice of beverage seems to make a difference in overall nutrition. People who drank more milk and fewer sweetened beverages had diets that were significantly higher in vital nutrients including calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A. In the general population, sweetened beverages substantially contributed to calories and added sugar intakes, while providing fewer nutrients other than vitamin C.
"Our research tells us that beverages make significant contributions to energy and nutrient intakes of Americans, and gives us good reason to recommend that people choose nutrient-rich beverages like lowfat and fat free milk," explains co-author Susan Barr, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at the University of British Columbia. "This study suggests that consumption of milk beverages in place of sweetened beverages may be associated with a healthy weight."