How much sugar are you drinking?

This article is based on a study published on 13 September 2016 by the Department of Nutrition of the University of Oslo. The purpose of the study, carried out by Mari Mohn Paulsen *, Jannicke Borch Myhre and Lene Frost Andersen, was to investigate how beverage consumption varies between different meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper/evening meal, snacks) and between weekdays and weekend-days in Norwegian adults.

The data of this research comes from a representative sample of the adult (18–70 years) Norwegian population, which was randomly selected from the National register and asked to complete two 24 h recalls administered by telephone approximately four weeks apart. The respondents were encouraged to give detailed information regarding portion sizes of foods and beverages consumed.

Results of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

On average, 34% of the participants were consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages, with the proportion being higher for men. The oldest age group had 76% lower odds of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption compared to the youngest participants. Participants with higher education and participants with high or very high interest in a healthy diet also had lower odds of being consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.

In contrast to the gender differences observed for sugar-sweetened beverages, women had 38% higher odds of consuming artificially sweetened beverages compared to men. Participants in the oldest age group had 53% lower odds of drinking artificially sweetened beverages, while participants being overweight had higher odds of consuming artificially sweetened beverages, compared to participants with a normal or low BMI. People interested in a healthy diet had 21% lower odds of consuming artificially sweetened beverages, compared to people with no, low or moderate interest.

Patterns of Beverage Consumption

Dinner was the most important meal for intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. The average intake of sugar-sweetened beverages among all participants was 1/2 dL each day for dinner. One third (34%) of the participants were consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages. Among consumers the average daily intake was about 4 dL. The Norwegian health authorities recommend drinking water at meals and between meals because sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of obesity, tooth decay, and acid damage to teeth.

Patterns of Beverage Consumption on Weekdays Compared to Weekend Days

Surprisingly, the study did not find any differences in the intake of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages between weekdays and weekend days among consumers. There is scarce literature published regarding consumption of such beverages among adults. However, a national representative survey among Norwegian children found that the intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks was significantly higher during weekend days, compared to weekdays among four-year old children and school children in 4th and 8th grade. Since the weekend constitutes almost one third of the week, improvement of the composition of foods and beverages consumed during weekends will contribute to improve the total dietary quality.

Background Variables Associated with the Intake of Different Types of Beverages

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages dropped sharply at older ages in this study. In addition, participants with university or college education had lower odds of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. The association between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and lower or no education has also been found in other studies. Why a lower socioeconomic position is associated with higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is not clear, but it has been argued that the low cost and aggressive marketing in low-income areas could be an explanation. It is well documented that low socioeconomic position is associated with a clustering of unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, unhealthy dietary patterns, and obesity.

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