Consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages – fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas, and energy drinks – may be on the decline, but sugary drinks are still the number one source of calories and added sugars in the American diet. A typical 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 9 ½ teaspoons of added sugars; a 20-ounce bottle contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends only 12 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends even less: that men limit themselves to nine teaspoons of added sugars per day, and that women limit themselves to six teaspoons per day. In either case, one sugary drink a day puts you at or over the recommended level.
Obesity. Caloric beverages contribute to weight gain more than solid foods because the body doesn’t compensate fully for beverage calories by reducing calorie intake from other foods. Adults who drink one sugary drink or more per day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than non-drinkers, regardless of income or ethnicity.
Diabetes. Persons consuming sugary drinks regularly—one to two cans a day or more—have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely consume such drinks. The risks are even greater for young adults.
Tooth decay. Soda consumption is associated with nearly twice the risk of cavities in children and increases their likelihood in adults. Untreated cavities can lead to pain, infection, and tooth loss.
Heart disease. Men who drink one can of a sugary drink per day have a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than men who rarely consume sugary drinks. A related study in women found a similar sugary drink–heart disease link.
Dominance through marketing
The largest sugary drink companies routinely spend more than $4 billion a year on marketing. Between promotion, placement, and high-profile partnerships, soda manufacturers pour a lot of money into making their products household names. And they're not above preying on vulnerable populations.
Low- and middle- income countries. While soft-drink sales have decreased in wealthier nations, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been making up for declining profits by investing heavily in low- and middle-income countries. And the expansion is coming at the expense of people’s lives, from Central America to South America, Southeast Asia to South Africa.
What we're doing
CSPI is working to make our beverages healthier through education, pricing strategies, increasing access to healthy beverages in community settings, challenging deceptive marketing, and taking Big Soda to court.
State and local policies have the power to transform the food environment, making it easier to make healthy choices and ensuring that sugary drinks are never the default option.
CSPI created an interactive map of sugary drink policy professionals using data supplied by attendees of our 2021 Sugary Drink Summit. Use this resource to find potential partners for sugary drink reduction work in your area and beyond!
CSPI works at the federal level to empower Americans with information and support in maintaining a healthy diet. Our major victories includes getting sugary drinks out of schools, and successfully petitioning to have added sugars declared on Nutrition Facts labels. Our recent work includes securing introduction of the SWEET Act, a federal excise tax on sugary drinks, fighting for federal front-of-package labeling, and promoting healthy diets through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Soda companies spend billions of dollars a year telling us that soda leads to happiness, but the industry's shadowy practices tell a different story. CSPI investigates these practices and leverages public pressure to change corporate behavior. Some of our reports include:
Carbonating the World – What’s a soda company to do when sales decline in wealthy countries? Prey upon lower-income countries.
Soda Still on the Menu – Some restaurants have changed the beverage that comes with their kids’ meals from soda to healthier options, but 85% of the top restaurant chains continue to sabotage parents by automatically serving soda.
CSPI exposes soda companies’ political spending to block policies that are proven to improve health, like modest taxes and product warning labels. Momentum for these common-sense policies is building in the U.S. and around the world with more and more cities—and even entire countries—taking action to keep the soda giants in check.
CSPI’s Litigation Department has fought for more transparent labeling of SSBs in the courts. For example, CSPI’s attorneys have represented consumers in lawsuits alleging that Coca-Cola misled the public about the health harms of SSBs, Coca-Cola’s VitaminWater was deceptively marketed as a healthful alternative to soda, and Jamba Juice misled consumers about the amount of whole fruit and vegetables in its smoothies. You can learn more about our Litigation Department’s work challenging deceptive labeling and marketing practices here.