HSPH researchers support petition calling for limits on added sugars in beverages

The amount of added sugars in soda and other sweetened beverages needs to be regulated, according to a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition advocacy group—and many Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers agree.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration calling for the agency to set limits on added sugars in beverages. The petition was signed by 10 public health departments, a variety of medical organizations, and 42 highly respected nutrition researchers—including seven from HSPH.

While the FDA considers sugar to be a “safe” food at the recommended level of consumption, “Americans are consuming two to three times that much,” CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said at a February 13, 2013 press briefing about the petition. People shouldn’t consume more than eight teaspoons of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association. But surveys show that people in the U.S. consume an average of 18 to 23 teaspoons a day. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda has about 16 teaspoons of sugar. Research suggests that Americans’ growing intake of sugary drinks has contributed to the current obesity epidemic and a rise in related diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

HSPH’s Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition, also spoke at the briefing. He said the CSPI petition focuses on beverages because it’s much easier to overconsume sugar in liquids than solids, according to a February 13, 2013 Los Angeles Times article. Of the 16 teaspoons of added sugar in a 20-ounce soda, he said, “You can gulp it down in a minute or two.”

Read the Los Angeles Times article

Read a Boston Globe article

Read the CSPI press release

Learn more

Sugary drinks and obesity fact sheet (HSPH Nutrition Source)

Sugary drinks or diet drinks: What’s the best choice? (HSPH Nutrition Source)

Regular consumption of sugary beverages linked to increased genetic risk of obesity (HSPH release)

Sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome (HSPH release)