RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—It’s easier for people to lose weight when they cut calories from beverages rather than food, new research shows. In a study published in the April edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cutting down on liquid calories had a stronger effect on weight loss than cutting down on calories from solid foods. Which makes sense, considering how many calories most of us drink in a day. “Over the past 20 years, Americans have increased their average daily caloric intake by around 200 calories a day,” explains study coauthor Benjamin Caballero, MD, PhD, professor of nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Almost half that increase is explained by an increase in consumption of caloric beverages.”
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THE DETAILS: Researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied 810 participants at the beginning of the study, and again 6 and 18 months later, looking at how drinking fewer sugar-sweetened drinks (regular soda, fruit drinks, fruit punch, or any other high-calorie beverage, diet drinks, milk, alcoholic beverages, 100-percent juice, tea, and coffee) affected weight loss. Cutting out one serving of sugar-sweetened drinks a day produced the only statistically significant greater weight loss, and was associated with about a 1-pound loss at 6 months, and 1½-pound drop at 18 months.
WHAT IT MEANS: Drinking too many sugar-sweetened drinks has been linked not only to an increase in blubbery bellies and stubborn pounds, but also to a greater risk of developing diabetes. Plus, beverages don’t do a good job at satisfying our appetites, so they don’t take the place of calories that we eat.
Here’s how to drop a few pounds, and keep them off, by watching your liquids:
• Use the levels for a favorable scale reading. The Beverage Guidance Panel has developed a tiered system ranking beverages from Level 1 (drink the most) to Level 6 (consume in limited quantities). It’s similar to the food pyramid, but for drinks.
Here’s how the most common drinks ranked:
Level 1: Water (Hands down, this should be your main source in the beverage department.)
Level 2: Brewed black, green, or herbal teas, coffee, Lipton original (unsweetened) bottled iced tea
Level 3: Low-fat and skim milk; soy beverages, such as plain, vanilla, and chocolate (the study used Silk soy milk products)
Level 4: Noncaloric sweetened beverages, such as diet sodas
Level 5: Caloric beverages with some nutrients, such as 100-percent fruit and veggie juices, whole milk, sports drinks, beer, and wine
Level 6: Sugar-enhanced drinks, such as Coke, Pepsi, and other regular sodas; flavored, sweetened coffee drinks like Starbucks Frappuccino and Caffe Mocha; Lipton Original Iced Tea (sweetened); Arizona Green Tea; fruit punches, including Kool-Aid; Nestea Cool; and other juices that contain just 10 percent real juice.
• Just eat the actual fruit or vegetable. The government publication Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people get no more than one-third of their daily portions of fruits from juice. “Pure juices contain good nutrients, particularly vitamin C,” says Caballero. “However, some of the benefits of fruits and vegetables, for instance, fiber, require that they be consumed whole.
• Not all juices are created equally. Look for 100 percent not-from-concentrate products, and steer clear of sugar-laden “juice cocktails” or “fruit drinks” that contain just 10 percent fruit juice. “These have little nutritive value, even if they are fortified with vitamins,” says Caballero. “You are better off drinking water and taking a vitamin pill!” And remember that even the best juice is a Level-5 beverage.
Published on: April 6, 2009