Obesity continues to be a major health concern for all ages. It is a complex medical condition that is very difficult to treat. Currently about 25 percent of adults and 10 percent of children are obese. Unless healthier lifestyles are chosen, a child who is obese runs a very high risk of becoming an obese adult. Children are now developing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that were once seen only in adults. Unhealthy weight gain due to increasing daily caloric intake is one of the many reasons responsible for obesity. For some people, fluid intake has become a main source of calories. In addition to having so many beverage choices on the market, the portion sizes of these drinks have increased. This makes it difficult to figure out what to drink on a regular basis to lead a healthy lifestyle. Thus, a panel of experts in 2006 looked at the relationship between beverage consumption and health and gave the following recommendations.
Water should be the main daily drink for most people, taking in 20-50 fluid ounces of water per day. Without water, dehydration can occur which can result in inability to think clearly, irritability, headaches, decreased reaction time and fatigue. Drinking water may decrease risk for bladder cancer and kidney stones.
Next to water, tea is the next most consumed beverage in the world. It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids. It may help fight cancers and enhance immunity. The panel recommends up to 40 fluid ounces of unsweetened tea daily.
Coffee intake may be associated with decreased risk for colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and cavities. The panel recommends coffee (unsweetened) up to 32 fluid ounces daily. There are greater amounts of caffeine in coffee than tea, and some people are more sensitive than others to caffeine's effects. Pregnant women should limit caffeine intake because it may increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.
Milk is an important source of calcium and vitamin D, especially for children. Fortified soy milk is a good alternative for those who cannot, or prefer not, to consume cow milk. The panel recommends up to 16 fluid ounces of low fat or skim milk and soy beverages daily. Whole fat dairy products are not recommended because it is a significant source of saturated fat.
Fruit juices that are 100 percent juice provide most of the nutrients of their natural source but lack the fiber of the whole fruit. It is best to limit the daily intake of fruit juices due to the high calorie content. The panel recommends only up to 8 ounces of 100 percent fruit juices daily.
Vegetable juices may be a helpful to way to increase your daily intake of vegetable servings, but watch for the amount of added sodium. Also, drinking vegetable juice may not curb your appetite or keep you feeling full for long. The panel recommends only up to 8 ounces of 100 percent vegetable juices daily.
Sports drinks have small amounts of sodium, chloride and potassium that may be helpful during endurance activities. The panel recommends sports drinks up to 16 ounces daily except for endurance athletes.
Alcoholic beverages may have some heart health benefits for adults but are also linked with increased risk of birth defects and breast cancer. Pregnant women should not drink alcoholic beverages. The panel recommends up to 1 alcoholic beverage per day for women and up to two per day for men (one drink = 12 fl. oz. of beer, 5 fl. oz. of wine, or 1.5 fl. oz. of distilled spirits).
Sweetened Drinks/Soft Drinks
The least recommended beverage is the sweetened, high caloric drink with very small amounts of other nutrients. The number of soft drinks and fruit drinks consumed most likely contributes to the current obesity epidemic. The panel recommends zero to at most 8 fluid ounces of calorically sweetened beverages daily.