Experts from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have proposed the manufacture of a new class of low-sugar drinks to help stem obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Strong evidence developed at HSPH and elsewhere shows that sugary drinks are an important contributor to the epidemic rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United States.
Faced with these growing public health threats, experts have called for manufacturers to create a class of reduced-calorie beverages that have no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce-about 70 percent less sugar than a typical soft drink-and that are free of non-caloric sweeteners.
They also propose that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require beverage manufacturers to put calorie information for the entire bottle-not just for a single serving-on the front of drink labels.
The aim is to re-educate the American palate to a lower expectation of sweetness, as well as to give consumers clear information to help them make healthier choices.
"The scientific evidence is now clear; soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are important contributors to obesity in children and adults," said Walter Willett, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition at HSPH. "Healthier beverage options would allow individuals to make better choices."
A study by HSPH followed the health of 90,000 women over two decades and found that women who drank more than two servings of sugary beverages each day had a nearly 40 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages.
However, by choosing healthier beverages, individuals can reduce risks to their health, experts suggest.
Lilian Cheung, lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and editorial director of The Nutrition Source website, said: "We need to retrain American tastes away from super-sweet drinks. If we can shift the present American norm back to a lower expectation of sweetness, people will adjust their palates, particularly the younger population."
The study is published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.