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Reducing Access to Sugar-sweetened Beverages Among Youth

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the diet of U.S. youth.1 Consuming these beverages increases the intake of calories—a factor potentially contributing to obesity among youth nationwide.2

Photo: A boy with a glass of milk.Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. Among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, obesity increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.3,4 In recent decades, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among children and adolescents has been increasing.5,6 Boys aged 12–19 years consume an average of 22.0 ounces of full-calorie soda drink per day—more than twice their daily intake of fluid milk (9.8 ounces); girls consume an average of 14.3 ounces of full-calorie soda and 6.3 ounces of fluid milk per day.7

Results from the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS)—a school-based survey that collected information on physical activity and dietary behaviors among a nationally representative sample of high school students—underscore the need to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Survey findings, published in a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled "Beverage Consumption Among High School Students—United States, 2010," show that although water, milk, and 100% fruit juice were the beverages most commonly consumed during the 7 days before the survey, daily consumption of regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages also is prevalent in this population, especially among male and black students. In addition, among high school students, nearly two thirds consumed any combination of these beverages on a daily basis, and almost one third of students consumed any combination of these beverages two or more times per day.

The percentage of high school students who drank a can, bottle, or glass of selected beverages one or more times per day during the 7 days before the NYPANS*

Soda or Popa

Sports Drinkb

Other Sugar-sweetened Beveragec













White, non-Hispanic




Black, non-Hispanic




*National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study, 2010
a Drank a can, bottle, or glass of soda or pop, such as Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite, not including diet soda or diet pop.
b Drank a can, bottle, or glass of a sports drink, such as Gatorade or PowerAde, not including low-calorie sports drinks such as Propel or G2.
c Drank a can, bottle, or glass of a sugar-sweetened beverage such as lemonade, sweetened tea or coffee drinks, flavored milk, Snapple, or Sunny Delight, not including soda or pop, sports drinks, energy drinks, or 100% fruit juice.

Photo: A girl eating a salad.What You Can Do

Youth should

  • Reduce their consumption of regular soda or pop, sports drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Increase their consumption of water and low-fat or fat-free milk.
  • Drink limited amounts of 100% fruit juices.

To support youth in making healthy beverage choices, families, schools, and other youth-serving institutions should

  • Reduce youths' access to sugar-sweetened beverages to decrease consumption.
  • Encourage adolescents to drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk, or limited amounts of 100% fruit juices, as an option.

Moreover, because youth spend a significant portion of each weekday in school, making sure that healthy beverage choices are available—and that less nutritious ones are not—is critical. Implementing school policies restricting access to sugar-sweetened beverages is an especially important public health strategy for addressing childhood obesity and improving students' nutritional health.

Action items to improve the overallschool nutrition environment (beverages and foods) include

  • Photo: Students eating lunch.Supporting strong state and district school nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered or sold outside of school meals, such as those recommended by the Institute of Medicine.
  • Reviewing district-level school wellness policies to ensure they include nutrition guidelines so that only healthy foods and beverages are available during each school day.
  • Examining the actual foods and beverages that are available to students—including competitive foods and beverages sold in cafeterias, snack bars, school stores, and vending machines—and determining if they meet strong nutrition standards.
  • Educating students about nutrition and offering only healthy food and beverage choices to ensure a consistent message on healthy eating.

Additional National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS) Information

More Information


  1. Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2010;110(10):1477–1484.
  2. Berkey CS, Rockett HRH, Field AE, Gillman MW, Colditz GA. Sugar-added beverages and adolescent weight change. Obesity Research 2004;12:778–788.
  3. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, Lamb MM, Flegal KM. Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007–2008. Journal of the American Medical Association 2010;303(3):242–249.
  4. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2004 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans [PDF - 3.8MB]. Hyattsville, MD;2004.
  5. Wang YC, Bleich SN, Gormaker SL. Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988–2004. Pediatrics 2008;121:e1604–e1614.
  6. Sebastian RS, Cleveland LE, Goldman JD, Moshfegh AJ. Trends in the food intakes of children, 1977–2002. Consumer Interests Annual 2006;52:433-434.
  7. Forshee RA, Anderson PA, Storey ML. Changes in calcium intake and association with beverage consumption and demographics: comparing data from CSFII 1994–1996, 1998 and NHANES 1999–2002. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2006;25:108–116.
  • Page last reviewed: June 20, 2011
  • Page last updated: June 20, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs