Sugary drinks are any beverages that contain added sugar and are high in calories. This includes:
- Soda, like Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Sprite
- Fruit drinks (not 100% juice), like Kool Aid, Hugs, and Hi-C.
- Iced teas and sweet teas, like Snapple, Arizona, Nestea, SoBe, Honest, Sweet Leaf, and Tazo
- Energy drinks, like Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar
- Sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade
- Flavored water, like Vitamin Water
Diet sodas and other non-caloric (zero calorie), artificially sweetened beverages are not classified as sugary drinks.
This includes drinks sweetened with:
- Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Stevia (Pure Via, Truvia)
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there different types of sugar in drinks?
- High fructose corn syrup
- Brown Sugar
- Cane sugar
- Invert sugar
Why do we drink so many sugary drinks?
- Beverage companies spend billions of dollars to advertise their products on TV and the internet, in magazines and newspapers, and on billboards and vending machines. They particularly target young people with advertising and create specific ad campaigns to reach African Americans and Latinos.
Learn more: Sugar Water Gets a Facelift
- Sugary drinks are available everywhere: corner stores, vending machines, restaurants, pharmacies, cafeterias, workplaces, and even hospitals and doctors' offices.
- Sugary drinks are cheap and have become cheaper when compared to healthier drinks (such as milk), which have increased sharply in price.
- Portion sizes have become larger and larger, so that instead of buying an 8-ounce bottle, we are now buying 44-ounce Big Gulps!
Learn more: Beverage Consumption in the United States
- As we drink more sugary drinks and drink them at an earlier age, we get used to foods that are very sweet. This can make less-sweet foods and beverages taste less appealing.
How do sugary drinks affect my health?
One 20-ounce soda (the size of plastic bottles usually sold in vending machines) has 240 calories. All these empty calories lead to weight gain.
If you drank just one soda per day and kept eating as you normally would, you would drink nearly 90,000 calories in a year and gain 25 pounds!
Sugary drinks are linked to a variety of health problems:
- Unhealthy weight (obesity)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Cavities (dental caries)
- Weak bones (osteoporosis)
Learn more: Soft Drinks and Disease
Can sugary drinks lead to type 2 diabetes?
Other than having a family member with diabetes, being overweight is the biggest risk factor for developing diabetes. And sugary drinks can contribute to being overweight.
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not make insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels). It generally affects children and adolescents and is a lifelong disease. It is a genetic disease that cannot be prevented. People need to take insulin to control the level of sugar in their blood.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not respond to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar levels). It generally affects people who are overweight or obese, though genetics are also part of the cause. Having a family member with type 2 diabetes increases a person's chance of developing the disease.
In the past, type 2 diabetes affected only adults but, because of rising obesity rates, is now becoming more common in children. Most people need pills (oral medications) to control their diabetes. Some people can control their diabetes by eating more healthfully, exercising, and losing weight.
Learn more about diabetes.
Where can I find out more?
- The Health Consequences of Sugary Sweetened Beverages
- Energy Drinks Fact Sheet
- Added Sugar in the Diet
- WHYY FIT webchat with Chef Ann Cooper about sugary drinks
- Rethink Your Drink (CDC)
- Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming America's Health
- Sugar Water Gets a Facelift: What Marketing Does to Soda
- Food Marketing to Youth
- Beverage Consumption in the United States
- The Evolution of Eating: A Food Timeline
- Sugar Science: The Unsweetened Truth