Gulp! Kids Drink 7 Trillion Calories in Sugary Drinks Annually

As childhood obesity rates rise, a new study says kids are consuming staggering amounts of sugary drinks.
According to a new study out of Harvard University, kids are sucking down sugary drinks like there's no tomorrow. (Tim Macpherson/Getty Images)
Sep 28, 2012
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

More than 12.5 million kids in the U.S. are obese. As children have packed on the pounds over the last decade, the question of what's causing the weight gain is an important one. A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health might hold the answer. According to the study, kids ages two to 19 are downing 7 trillion calories in sugary drinks each year, reports Scientific American.

The research was conducted by Steve Gortmaker, director of the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center, whose work focuses on the health of children and adolescents, particularly minority populations and those in poverty. Gortmaker describes the goal of his research has been "to identify modifiable risks for morbidity and mortality in the young, and to both initiate and evaluate interventions to improve these outcomes." He recently reported on his findings at the Obesity Social Annual Scientific Meeting in San Antonio.

New research recently firmed up the connection between sugary drinks and obesity, demonstrating that such beverages interact with genes that affect weight. The research, which spanned decades and involved more than 33,000 Americans, made it clear that--independent of other factors such as overeating and inactivity--soda causes people to pack on the pounds.

MORE: Does the American Heartland Need More Soda? PepsiCo Thinks So

At a theoretical 50 cents per can, the 7 trillion calories kids drink also have a chunky financial impact: $24 billion a year in sugary drink sales, says Scientific American's Katherine Harmon. 

There is reason to stay calm, however: Cutting an average of 64 calories a day from kids' diets could slow the climb of obesity rates in children, Harmon reports.

And it's not just soda. Sports drinks, energy drinks, even juice blends are to blame. When it comes to beverages, you can't go wrong with a classic: water.

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