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Drinking Your Calories Absentmindedly Leads to Weight Gain

Calories are difficult to keep track of, in their solid form we at least have a basic understanding of what foods are healthier than others, drinks on the other hand not so much.  Liquid calories, particularly from sugar sweetened beverages, are a whole different battlefield.  Because of the simple process of drinking and the lack of actually eating a substance it is easy to not account for the amount of calories we are drinking.  Beverages that have been bottled do have nutrition labels, but many people don’t realize how many calories can contribute to their daily intake.  It is as if we are absentminded of calories once they are put into liquid form.

A study done by JAMA concluded a “higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a greater magnitude of weight gain and an increased risk for development of type 2 diabetes in women, possibly by providing excessive calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars.  Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.  Sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day). (Lasater G, Piernas C, Popkin BM)

Liquid calories in just about any form — alcohol, juice or soda— are empty calories.  Once in body beverages can have a major impact, not only in added calories but also ladened with sugar.  Scientific evidence confirms that despite the fact such sugar sweetened beverages add to our total intake of calories, the body doesn’t detect them the same way as it would detect solid food.

“Fluid calories do not hold strong satiety properties, don’t suppress hunger and don’t elicit compensatory dietary responses,” said Richard Mattes, M.P.H, R.D., a professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University. “When drinking fluid calories, people often end up eating more calories overall.”

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health have found that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked with a greater genetic susceptibility to high body mass index (BMI) and increased risk of obesity.  Not only will drinking calories make one susceptible to gaining weight, it also puts one at a greater sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption was strongly associated with progressively higher risk of type 2 diabetes

The term “soft drink” refers to any beverage with added sugar or other sweetener, and includes soda, juice, lemonade and sports and energy drinks.  Even drinking juice can have it negatives.  Because of juices associate with fruit it is commonly perceived as healthy but many varieties lack in nutrition.  There is a few vitamins, this is often from additives that replace the fruit’s original vitamins, which were stripped out during processing—and that goes for the “not from concentrate” juices as well. By juicing a fruit the actual fruit’s fiber and phytonutrients is lost.  As the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages rise, the childhood obesity does as well.

The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup. That’s the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar. If you were to drink just one can of a sugar-sweetened soft drink every day, and not cut back on calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 5 pounds in a year.

Naturally when one wants to cut calories from beverages they chose a diet alternative.  Beverages in this category include low fat low sugar milk, unsweetened tea and coffee, and diet tea, coffee, and soft drinks.  Drinking diet beverages has been linked to an increase in the consumption of calories from food.   “Artificial sweeteners, which are present in high doses in diet soda, are associated with a greater activation of reward centers in the brain, thus altering the reward a person experiences from sweet tastes. In other words, among people who drink diet soda, the brain’s sweet sensors may no longer provide a reliable gauge of energy consumption because the artificial sweetener disrupts appetite control. As a result, consumption of diet drinks may result in increased food intake overall.”

When choosing drinks be wary of flavored coffees drinks, smoothies, alcohol, juice, energy drinks, and sports ades.  Steer clear of any of these Worst Beverages in America.

Beverages that you should be drinking more of include water and tea.  Pay close attention to the nutrition label though.  Tea is a world that is associated with being healthy and marketers have capitalized on this.  There has been a decrease in the consumption of soda but that bottling industry hasn’t given up the fight just yet.  In order to continue to keep people purchase their products they have switched over to teas, sports drinks, and other seemingly healthy beverages.  Avoid purchasing expensive bottled teas or teas in coffee shops that contain added sweeteners.  Actively watch for hidden calories and try to cut the consumption of sugar and calories from beverage by choosing a better drink.

“Sugar sweetened beverages are one of the driving forces behind the obesity epidemic,” says Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and a co-author of this study. “The implication of our study is that the genetic effects of obesity can be offset by healthier food and beverage choices.”

For more information I highly suggest Harvard’s, the Nutrition Source, Sugary Drinks



Sugar is found in many foods, whether its hidden away or prominently displaced as a marketing tool.  It’s not unknown how alluring sugar is, but we’ve lost track of how much we are consuming throughout the years of the rise of convenience foods.

There are two types of sugar: added and natural.  Foods containing naturally found sugar include fruit, fruit juice, milk and dairy products. Added sugar, as the name suggests is sugar that is added to food during processing or preparation to make it sweeter.  There is a long list of ingredients that are classified as added sugar includes not just white table sugar, but brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and stevia.  Just to mention a few food products that have a lot of added sugar include sugary drinks, cakes, candy, fruit drinks, bread, pasta sauce, chips and snacks, yogurt, and cereal.sugar-in-food

Sugar has a great influence on how our bodies perform.  Jean Mayer, a Harvard professor of nutrition, is credited with discovering how the desire to eat is controlled by the amount of glucose in the blood and by the brain’s hypothalamus, both of which in turn are greatly influenced by sugar. Scientist are not the only ones who have looked into how sugar affects the brain, food manufactures have also learned how to use it to produce better, more tasty, and addicting foods.  Food scientists can determine a product’s “bliss point,” – the precise amount of sweetness – that makes it most enjoyable.

The increasing amount of sugar Americans are craving may be turning into a learned behavior, the sweeter food is the sweeter we expect it to be.  Throughout generations this produces kids who love sweet breakfast cereal, who grow up to desire sugar in their morning coffee, sugary salad dressing at lunch, frozen meals with sugar, topped off with a bowl of ice cream. As our taste becomes increasingly accustom to high amounts of sugar we start to unconsciously expect it.

With consumption at rates 22 teaspoons of it a day, the American Heart Association suggested in 2009 that Americans  should cut their intake down to six teaspoons for adult women and nine for men. Although here is no specific national guideline for sugar consumption.  Nor is there a recommended maximum limit for the amount of sugar food producers use unlike salt and fat.  In 2004 when the WHO tried to include the 10% sugar limit recommendation in its Global Strategy for Diet, Physical Activity and Health, the U.S. Congress — under pressure from the sugar industry lobby — threatened to withdraw U.S. funding for the agency.

Sugar has come under fire previously in the late 70’s when the public became concerned about the amount of sugar in cereal and the FTC looked into regulating how TV advertising was aimed at kids.  Some cereal’s clock in at 50 percent sugar.  Soda consumption once was looked as the major culprit of the rising obesity numbers, but now the intake of other sugary drinks, like sports drinks, vitamin water, tea and others are just as bad.

Released earlier this year, this research is the first to link on a national level the amount of sugar American adults eat to their risk of dying from heart disease after taking into account weight, age, health, exercise and diet, said lead study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “The risk of cardiovascular disease death increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of added sugar,” says the study’s lead author, Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consuming too much added sugar — in regular soda, cakes, cookies and candy — increases your risk of death from heart disease, according to a new study, the largest of its type.Excessive sugar is a big contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in America and other countries across the world.  Weight gain is just the tip of the iceberg.  Obesity is correlated with increased risks for even worse conditions including diabetes 2 and heart disease.


How can we curb our desire for sugar?  Be conscious about the products were consuming, ultimately we are in charge of our health and can not be reliant on outside forces.  Start with breakfast, the quintessential breakfast dish accounted for 31 percent of Americans’ morning meals, beating out eggs, bagels and other pastries, according to an ABC poll.  Sugary drinks are also ill advised, even fruit juices  like the beloved orange and apple, because the majority of nutrients and fiber and left behind when its sweet nectar is cultivated.  We can’t expect food manufactures to be solely responsible for our health, they are in the business of making money and that is what they will do.  It’s not that gloomy through.  Campaigns are fighting for regulation and the lowering of additives.  Also the new nutrition labels, which we wont be seeing for a few years, with address the issue of added sugars and more prominently display the amount of sugar a product contains.