Healthy Beverage Initiative

Purchasing non-sugary drinks can be a healthy option

Americans currently consume an average of 19.5 teaspoons of added sugar per day, of which 36 percent is in the form of sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks, according to research assessed by the UCSF-led SugarScience project. Over the past year, the SugarScience team reviewed more than 8,000 scientific papers on sugar’s impact on health. Studies show that one soda exceeds the AHA daily limit for added sugar and that drinking just one soda per day can increase the risk of dying from heart disease by nearly one-third and raise the risk of diabetes by 26 percent. New research from UC Davis also has shown a dose-related connection between sugar and metabolic disease, with higher consumption linked to worse health impacts.

“The average American consumes nearly three times the recommended amount of added sugar every day,” said Laura Schmidt, PhD, a UCSF professor in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy and the lead investigator on SugarScience. “The most common single source is sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Sugar overconsumption is implicated in most forms of metabolic and chronic disease, with growing evidence of links to some forms of cancer, premature aging and cognitive decline. These diseases are significant topics of UCSF research and clinical care.

Research in behavioral economics and public health has shown that people tend to make food and drink choices based on convenience and accessibility. By making it easy to purchase healthy food and drinks, UCSF can support patients and employees who are trying to improve their health.

As of November, 2015, members of the UCSF community and visitors were still able to bring sodas or other sugary drinks with them to campus, but were only be able to purchase healthy beverages.

The average American consumes 45 gallons of sugary drinks per year. While sugary soda consumption has begun to decline in recent years, annual U.S. consumption of sugary drinks rose by 38.5 gallons per person between 1950 and 2000. Sugar-sweetened beverages include sodas, fruit drinks with added sugar, energy drinks, sweetened teas, and sports drinks. 

Your organization can be a part of this effort to limit sales of sugary drinks. Download our resource kit here to learn more.

UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Founded in 1864 as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

Added sugar

Any sugar added in preparation of foods, either at the table, in the kitchen or in the processing plant. This may include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and others.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugar-sweetened beverages

(SSB) Means the same as liquid sugar, or sugary drinks.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugary drinks

Means the same as sugar-sweetened beverages or liquid sugars.

SugarScience Glossary

Heart disease

A broad term for a group of chronic diseases of the heart, these diseases include problems with blood supply to heart muscle, problems with heart valves and the electrical system of the heart. Another term you will see used to mean the same thing is cardiovascular disease.

SugarScience Glossary

Diabetes mellitus

Usually shortened to just diabetes. Sometimes called sugar diabetes. Look at Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes for more information

SugarScience Glossary

Fruit drinks

A drink that is not 100% fruit juice and may have any amount or any type of fruit juice. The food label will say how much of the drink is fruit juice. If ingredients are shown there is usually added sugar in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup

SugarScience Glossary


Rapid loss of blood supply to a portion of the brain causing brain damage. This may lead to difficulty with memory, thought, speech, sensation, and movement. Stroke is usually due to blockage of blood vessels in the neck or brain. It is more common as people age, and is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

SugarScience Glossary


Abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth in a part of the body, many types. Another of the chronic diseases.

SugarScience Glossary

SugarScience Facts

Too much fructose in added sugar can damage your liver just like too much alcohol.

SugarScience Facts

Americans consume an average of 66 pounds of added sugar each year.

SugarScience Facts

Too much added sugar from soda and sports drinks overloads critical organs, which can lead to diseases.

SugarScience Facts

Too much added sugar doesn't just make us fat. It can also make us sick.

SugarScience Facts

Every day, the average American consumes almost three times more added sugar than is recommended.

SugarScience Facts

Consuming too many added sugars can make you overweight, which strains the heart.

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