Health advocates, beverage industry debate sugary drinks at National Soda Summit

Health advocates, beverage industry debate sugary drinks at National Soda Summit
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Health advocates met Wednesday in Washington, D.C. for the second National Soda Summit.

The goal was to reduce the occurrence of obesity, diabetes and other illnesses related to a poor diet in the U.S. but the beverage industry said the blame is misplaced.

Education about the link between sugar and health problems like obesity and diabetes have contributed to Americans cutting back on soda, down 3 percent in the past year, according to an industry report. While soda sales are down, consumption of other sugary beverages like energy drinks are up and the government calls sugary drinks the single largest source of calories in the American diet and health advocates say that needs to change.

"People think, 'Oh, you drink soda instead of water.' And you drink 60 ounces instead of 6 ounces, and that's what's leading to the obesity and the diabetes," said Jim O'Hara with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Success weaning Americans off their soda habit has been mixed. Sugary drinks are being removed from schools. In New York City, a cap on soda serving sizes is still in court. Now researchers are considering new deterrents like beverage taxes and coupon bans.

But the beverage industry argues their popular drinks aren't to blame for the country's obesity problem.

"Nutritional advice is important; Often, turning it into regulations is a really bad idea," said Baylen Linnekin with the group Keep Food Legal.

The beverage industry argues they've given consumers low- and non-calorie options and it's up to consumers to choose them.