The American Heart Association advises people to consume no more than 36 ounces or about 450 calories from sugary beverages a week, but a new study taking a look at the impact of sugar intake stemming from regular sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks and sweetened bottled waters, reports that people ages 20 to 39 who drink sugary beverages consume 336 calories a day from them alone. Sugary drinks provide empty calories and rarely any nutritional benefit. In fact, each additional drink consumed per day increases the likelihood that a child will become obese by about 60%.

Overall more than half of people in the United States overall drink sugary beverages on any given day, and about 25% consume at least 200 calories a day from them. About 5% of people ages 2 and older consume at least 567 calories a day from these types of drinks, which is equal to more than four 12 ounce cans of cola.

The study’s results are from more than 17,000 interviews conducted from 2005 to 2008.

Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont says:

“Sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one single source of calories in the American diet and account for about half of all added sugars that people consume. Most Americans don’t have much room in their diets for a completely nutrient void beverage. One recent study showed that drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage a day increases your risk of high blood pressure. It’s better if you can avoid them altogether and instead consume water, fat-free or 1% fat milk, 100% fruit juice and low-sodium vegetable juices.”

Some other key statistics contained in the report include the fact that males consume more sugary beverages than females, while teens and young adults consume more than other age groups.

Black and Mexican-American adults drink more calories from these beverages than whites, and people in lower socio-economic groups consume more calories from them than higher-income people.

Where these drinks are consumed is about split with 52% of sugary drinks are consumed at home and 48% away from home.

Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says:

“The reason we are interested in sugary drinks is they are associated with a variety of conditions including obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Coinciding with this report, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the American Diabetes Association and other leading health groups and several major city public health departments announced a new public awareness campaign named “Life’s Sweeter with Fewer Sugary Drinks” in an attempt to reduce the consumption of these types of beverages.

Michael Jacobson, CSPI’s executive director explains:

“We want to make it part of conventional thinking that soda and other sugary beverages are acceptable as an occasional treat but not day-in and day-out in such large quantities.”

A 20-ounce cola contains about 16 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than double what the American Heart Association recommends for adult women per day and more than one and a half times its healthy limit for men, while healthcare costs related to obesity total more than $150 billion per year.

Written by Sy Kraft