Excessive consumption of sugary beverages (soft drinks, fresh water, juices, coffee and tea with added sugar, sports drinks, natural fruit juices – with and without added sugar) leads to high calorie (energy) intake, resulting in overweight and obesity. In addition to being independently related to an increased risk of developing type II diabetes, dyslipidemias (conditions related to increased risk of atherosclerosis) and cardiovascular disease. Excessive consumption of whole milk, a major source of saturated fat, is also known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the origins of the human species, water and breast milk were the only two types of beverages consumed. It has been in the last 11,000 years that humans began consuming other types of beverages. In the last 30 years there has been an alarming increase in the consumption of sugary beverages globally and in all age groups. In the case of the United States, in the 1970s, sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for almost 4% of total calorie intake, a percentage that increased to 9% by 2001.

The same trend has been seen in lower-income countries. In the case of Mexico, consumption of sugary beverages has increased considerably throughout the population over the past 13 years, especially among schoolchildren between 5 and 11 years of age, adolescent women and adults. This increase is mainly due to an increase in the consumption of flavored milk, fresh water with sugar and fruit-based juices – in the case of children – and soft drinks, coffee/tea with added sugar and fresh water – in the case of women.

Currently, Mexicans are among the largest consumers of sugary beverages in the world, representing 19 percent of the energy consumption (calories) of a day. On average, a 355-ml can of soda has 7.4 tablespoons of sugar (37 grams of sugar), approximately 75% of the maximum limit of sugar for an adult during an entire day (around 50 grams of sugar) and 150% of the limit considered advisable by the new sugar consumption guidelines proposed by the WHO (25 grams of sugar). The high consumption of sugary drinks and their relationship with the increased risk of developing overweight, obesity and chronic diseases has made it imperative to issue recommendations on the consumption of beverages for the population.

So what are some healthy drinks to consider?

1. Drinking water – the healthiest drink to meet hydration needs.

2. Semi-skimmed and skimmed milk with no added sugar. Important source of calcium and vitamin D. It is recommended for children over two years old, adolescents and adults. The consumption of semi-skimmed and skimmed milk should be preferred over whole milk, which has a high content of saturated fat, whose consumption is related to cardiovascular diseases.

3. Coffee and tea without added sugar. Some health benefits have been found from moderate consumption of coffee and tea (no more than 4 cups per day of coffee), mainly in adults. However, the addition of milk or sugar increases the caloric intake (energy density) of these drinks and therefore makes their consumption less recommendable.

4. Coffee and tea with non-caloric sweeteners and diet soft drinks. The consumption of these beverages is preferable to those that have caloric sweeteners, as they do not increase energy consumption. However, their consumption may increase the preference for sweet foods and displace water, so it is not recommended for children.

5. 100% fruit juice. Their consumption should be limited to half a glass per day (125 ml), as they provide the same or more calories than other sugary drinks, without the benefits of the whole fruit. It is recommended to eat fruit in chunks instead of drinking juices.

Soft drinks and other drinks with added sugar (fresh water, artificial fruit juices, sports drinks). The World Health Organization recently issued a recommendation on the amount of simple sugar (the main component of sugary drinks) that should be included in a proper diet. According to the available scientific evidence, simple sugars should not provide more than 10% of total energy consumption in a day. A greater contribution to this 10% is associated with weight gain, overweight and obesity, chronic diseases, and more tooth decay. Considering this recommendation, the consumption of soft drinks and beverages with added sugar should be avoided, or consumed only sporadically and in minimal quantities.

Recommendations do not include alcoholic beverages . If consumed, it is recommended to restrict to no more than one drink per day and only in adults. One drink per day corresponds to: 240 mL (one glass) of beer (regular or light), 150 mL (one glass) of wine or 45 mL of distilled beverages.

Drink recommendations for healthy living are directed primarily to adults. If these recommendations are extended to children and adolescents, some modifications are required, as in the case of drinks with noncaloric sweeteners, which are not recommended for children, as well as the consumption of coffee and tea with caffeine.

From now on, look at what you drink, and consider these recommendations. Drinks are an important part of healthy living. Share this article and help your friends and family stay healthy.