Soda makers pledge to cut calories by 20%
(CNN) — Soda makers want to cut the number of calories you’re drinking each year. At the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, the big three — Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper — pledged to reduce the number of beverage calories Americans are consuming by 20% over the next decade.
The announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise; soda makers have been under fire for some time for their contribution to the American obesity epidemic. And the companies’ motives probably aren’t totally altruistic. As more people start to count calories, consumer demand has risen for diet beverages.
“Full calorie or regularly sweetened beverage consumption is going down and has been going down in the last couple of years,” American Beverage Association spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger told CNN in June. “Our companies continue to innovate, to offer options… and consumers are taking advantage of them.”
The calories in beverages primarily come from sugar, Gindlesperger said. To cut calories but keep the taste, soda makers generally substitute in natural or artificial sweeteners.
The result is a low- or no-calorie option that satisfies your sweet tooth.
But, and this is a big but, science hasn’t quite finished testing these sweeteners’ impact on your body. How do they affect your metabolism? Do the chemicals in the artificial sweeteners pose any risk? While most agencies seem to agree that we can rule out cancer as an ill-effect, the medical community is still deciding whether diet beverages will really help you lose weight.
Let’s start with the good news: cutting calories has been shown time and again to be an effective weight-loss strategy. If you used to drink three 20-ounce bottles of regular Coke every day and you switch to a beverage with zero calories, you’re saving yourself around 720 calories a day. Do that for five days and you’ll lose a pound (or at least prevent yourself from gaining another one).
One study, funded by the American Beverage Association, found that diet soda drinkers who continued to drink soda while on a diet lost more weight than diet soda drinkers who stopped. The results didn’t surprise lead study author, Dr. Jim Hill. Those who had to give up diet soda were relying on more willpower to stick to their diets than those who allowed themselves the small indulgence without the added calories, he says.
Drinking sugarless beverages also helps you adhere to the World Health Organization’s recommendation to cut down on sugar consumption. The WHO recommends people consume less than 5% of their daily calories from sugar.
“There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in … an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases,” WHO said in a statement.
Of particular concern, WHO said, is the role sugar plays in causing dental diseases worldwide.