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Credit: American Beverage Association

The headlines are hard to ignore. America needs to lose weight.

The American Beverage Association, representing America’s non-alcoholic beverage producers, marketers, bottlers, distributors and, ultimately, consumers, is concerned about the obesity issue in America and is proudly doing its part to help improve health and wellness. To help educate children and provide them with nutritious beverage options, the beverage industry joined with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to create School Beverage Guidelines that remove full-calorie soft drinks from all schools and provide for students with a range of lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverage options. It’s part of a broader effort to teach children the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.

All of our industry’s beverages can be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestlye. Our industry also produces and promotes an array of products that can be catalysts to good health – bottled waters, 100 percent fruit juices, sports drinks, ready-to-drink teas and no- and low-calorie soft drinks.

Many Factors Impact Obesity

While beverages and food play a role in determining good health, so do other important factors.  In fact, it is generally accepted that obesity involves three main factors: genetics, diet and exercise.

We know that obesity is a serious and complex problem that is best addressed by living a balanced lifestyle – consuming a variety of foods and beverages in moderation and getting plenty of exercise. Quite simply, overweight and obesity are a result of an imbalance between calories consumed and calories burned.


How is the beverage industry impacting children’s health and wellness in schools?

Our industry is doing its part to impact children’s health and wellness. For example, the beverage industry joined with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to develop new School Beverage Guidelines that remove full-calorie soft drinks from all schools and provide students with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverage options.  It’s all part of a broader effort to teach children about the importance of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.  Additionally, the beverage industry makes a wide variety of beverages that can help contribute to good health, such as bottled waters, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, ready-to-drink teas and no- and low-calorie soft drinks.

Does the consumption of soft drinks cause obesity problems?

Obesity is a complex problem that is influenced by many factors, most importantly diet, exercise and genetics. It is not feasible to blame any one food product or beverage as being a sole contributor to obesity problems considering people consume calories from many different sources. No science supports such a claim. The key to living a healthy lifestyle is to incorporate a balanced, healthy diet that balances calories consumed and calories burned through activity and exercise.

Why did the beverage industry decide to pull full-calorie soft drinks from schools?

Schools are a unique environment and we understand that parents desire greater control over their children in the school setting. The School Beverage Guidelines were developed with parents in mind to ensure more control over children’s beverage choices during school hours.

We believe soft drinks can be part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. It is totally appropriate for parents to give their child a soft drink. And it is very appropriate for teenagers to choose a soft drink as a refreshment.

What can be done to help combat childhood obesity?

We need to start doing the hard work of teaching our children how to incorporate different foods and beverages into a balanced diet and to develop an active lifestyle. These are the most important lessons we can teach children that will have a lasting impact on health and wellness.

Does high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) uniquely contribute to obesity?

Absolutely not. In fact, in 2008, the American Medical Association issued a statement at its annual meeting saying that HFCS is not a unique contributor to obesity – an important affirmation that undermines the inaccurate claims of critics of this sweetener. The AMA said it reached its conclusion after studying current research.

We know that HFCS affects the body in a manner similar to table sugar. Many people confuse HFCS with fructose because of the similar names, but three new scientific studies and one new scientific review show that HFCS acts no differently than table sugar in the human body. Here’s why:  Most types of HFCS contain about 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, while table sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, so they’re fundamentally very similar. The name “high” fructose corn syrup is really a misnomer.

What about recent allegations that HFCS use has increased in recent decades as obesity rates have skyrocketed? Aren’t they related?

HFCS use has greatly increased from 1970-1990, and obesity also has increased during that same time.  That does not mean, however, that HFCS causes obesity. For example, in England, Egypt and Brazil, the rates of increase in obesity are just as high as in the U.S. – and those countries do not use HFCS in beverages.

Are children drinking more full-calorie soft drinks today?

Actually, kids are drinking fewer full-calorie soft drinks and increasing their consumption of other beverage choices. Research shows full-calorie soft drink consumption actually has decreased 24 percent in schools (2002-2004) while sales of bottled waters, sports drinks, 100 percent juices and diet drinks rose 36 percent. This is the result of proactive industry efforts to provide more beverage choices for students, who are now choosing nutritious and lower-calorie beverages.

What beverages can help contribute to children’s health?

The beverage industry provides many beverage options that can serve as a catalyst for good health, such as bottled waters, 100 percent juices, sports drinks and low-calorie soft drinks. Additionally, all beverages can help children meet their daily hydration needs. The beverage industry also makes many beverage choices that contribute to good health through the addition of nutrients and vitamins.