While the United States has become known as a nation with a Coke can in its hand, our addiction to soda is actually dwindling. In fact, according to data from Beverage Digest, in 1998 Americans drank an average of 51 gallons of soda per year. Today, we’re down to 44 gallons, about 20 percent less. In 2013, soda sales actually fell by 3 percent, which may not sound like a lot, but in a country of fizzy drink guzzlers, it’s notable.
But it’s not just the classic sodas that are slipping down the slope. Diet sodas saw a 6 percent decrease in 2013. Some attribute this to an increase in awareness, thanks to both policy and advertising.
“I have been amazed at the number of studies that have been published over the past five years that have vilified sugar-sweetened beverages in general, and soda in particular. On the policy front, legislation has been introduced in California and elsewhere calling for a warning label on soda similar to the warning label on alcohol-containing beverages [regarding pregnant women] or warning labels on tobacco products. All of this is raising public awareness of the potential dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages,” Barbara J. Moore, president and CEO of Shape Up America!, told ABC News.
A decline in soda is a good thing when it comes to sugar intake — drinking one 12-ounce soda a day can increase your chance for Type 2 Diabetes by 22 percent. When it comes to our health, we know that added sugars are taking a big toll; a recent study found that 71.4 percent of adults in the U.S. “get more than the recommended 10% of their daily calories from added sugars in foods and drinks.”
But does the decline in soda consumption mean that we’re consuming less sugar overall? According to some data, we are in fact consuming less sugar, but if we expand the data selection, we can also see that overtime we are on a general trend of increased sugar consumption. It all depends on how you look at the numbers.
The average American eats about 130 pounds of sugar a year, so while that number may be down from a few years ago, it’s by no means healthy. We’re still sugar addicted, and it’s not just sodas that are to blame. While people may have kicked the soda habit, they may have replaced it with equally sugary drinks, not to mention all of the added sugars in other processed foods.
Since the 1950s, the average American’s consumption of high fructose corn syrup has gone up from zero pounds per year to 63.8. Reducing that number isn’t just going to happen from a reduction in soft drinks. We’ll need to reduce our intake of all prodcuts that involve added sweeteners.
The World Health Organization has a draft proposal out for new guidelines, encouraging people to get less than 5 percent of their daily calories from sugar. That’s down from 10 percent, which was in the organization’s 2002 guidelines. As the WHO points out, getting the numbers down to that level is going to require really thinking about what we’re eating. “Much of the sugars consumed today are ‘hidden’ in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar,” states the WHO website.
Are Americans addicted to sugar? In a big way, but we can only hope that the decline in soft drinks is the beginning of a decline in added sweeteners overall.