Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Soft Drinks

Straight Talk about Soda

Soda companies produce more than 52 gallons of carbonated beverages for each person in the United States, enough for every American to drink one and a half cans every day. Americans drink twice as much soda today as they did in 1971. Public health advocates and politicians have raised concerns about the role of soda in the American diet, leading to limits and bans on soda sales in many school systems.

The American Beverage Association counters criticism of soda in part by claiming that the science linking soda consumption to negative health outcomes is inconclusive and that it is unfair to pick on soda companies because there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Find out more about Food Industry Messaging.

To address these claims by the industry, researchers at the Rudd Center published a meta-analysis of 88 studies evaluating the effects of soft drink consumption on health. Overall, the research shows that people who drink soda do not compensate by eating less food, so their overall calorie consumption rises. The studies also link soft drink consumption to higher body weight and increased risk of diabetes, as well as to lower consumption of milk, calcium and other nutrients.

Industry Funding Impacts Science

The Rudd Center’s meta-analysis showed that the studies funded by the food industry were much less likely than those funded by non-industry entities to find a significant link between soda consumption and energy intake, weight gain and other health outcomes. Read more about Rudd Center Guidelines for Funding and Interaction with the Food Industry

What can we do?

The clear link between soft drinks and negative health effects requires efforts to reduce soda consumption in the United States. The Rudd Center is evaluating the role of marketing to children as well as the impact of school nutrition policies on children’s diets. We are also working with the food industry to address how product reformulation can be harnessed to improve the nutritional quality of the foods people are buying.