Today, more than ever before, there is a large focus on diet, nutrition and the roles various foods and beverages play in a person’s life. Research shows that as a nation, our collective waistlines are expanding and as such, this close scrutiny of what we consume is justified in the context of overweight and obesity.
As an industry that produces a range of beverages to suit everybody’s lifestyle, hydration, taste and kilojoule preference, we advocate that energy balance is the most important issue in maintaining a healthy weight. That is, the energy consumed through all foods and beverages ie the whole diet, is matched with energy burnt off or exerted through daily activity that includes regular exercise. When considering what people should eat or drink, we understand everybody is different and support a balanced diet where all foods (and drinks) can be consumed in moderation. This combined approach of diet and exercise in managing overweight and obesity is supported in overarching advice from leading authorities such as the World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council.
All non-alcoholic beverages, both sugar-sweetened and non-sugar, are a refreshing and pleasant addition to a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Different people have different dietary aims, and may have different needs with regards to energy consumption and how they choose to consume that energy. Because of this, beverages come in a wide range of pack sizes, taste profiles, kilojoule/energy content and functional purposes eg sports drinks and energy drinks.
Beverages can be nutritively sweetened eg sugar, or non-nutritively sweetened, eg artificial or natural intense sweeteners. For nutritively sweetened beverages that contain kilojoules, sucrose, derived from sugar cane, is the primary sugar found in cordials and soft drinks. In fruit juice, fructose is the primary sugar that comes from the originating piece of fruit. Like all carbohydrates, both types of sugars have an energy content (17 kJ/g) as does protein, starches, oils, even alcohol. All kilojoules count and no source of kilojoules is uniquely different from another. Interestingly, sugar contains far less kilojoules per gram that those from say, fats/oils (37 kJ/g) and alcohol (29 kJ/g).
Non-nutritively sweetened beverages, or ‘non-sugar’ drinks, are sweetened with intense sweeteners that can be either artificial, like Aspartame or Cyclamate, or natural like Stevia. These sweeteners contain no energy content and as such contribute no kilojoules to the diet when consumed. Some beverages are now being sweetened with a blend of nutritive (sugar) and non-nutritive (non-sugar) sweeteners, which have a lower kilojoule/energy contribution than regular kilojoule/sugar varieties. All ingredients used in beverages manufactured in Australia and New Zealand, including sweeteners and colours, have been approved for use by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and have been declared perfectly safe for people to consume.
In the broader context of overweight and obesity, in recent times beverages in the diet has become a topical issue and one that comes under regular scrutiny and commentary. The industry recognises that like the rest of the food and grocery industry that makes up the total diet, it has a role to play in addressing the complex and multi-factorial issues of overweight and obesity. As part of this commitment to being part of a broad, multi-pronged approach to the issue, the beverages industry has instigated a number of key voluntary initiatives. These include:
- Reformulating products to offer a large range of low and no kilojoule beverages
- Restricting availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in primary schools
- Not marketing sugar-sweetened beverages to children under 12 years of age
- Clearly displaying kilojoule/energy content of each can or bottle on the front label.
The industry has been committed to be part of the solution’s framework for over a decade, and will continue to work with a range of stakeholders to ensure it, like the rest of shopping trolley, offers a range of products to suit every Australian’s lifestyle, hydration, taste and kilojoule need.
As an industry we look to a wide range of research in considering the issue of overweight and obesity. No one study or research paper can be looked at in isolation, and it’s the totality of evidence that provides the clearest picture. What the latest studies show is that whilst overweight and obesity has continued to rise over the last decade, the consumption of regular kilojoule, sugar-sweetened beverages has declined over that same period. Whilst undoubtedly the consumption of too many kilojoules and too much energy from any source than what is expended through physical activity and exercise can lead to people gaining weight, the latest insights into trends of beverage consumption suggests that the contribution of kilojoules to the diet from soft drinks is declining, and there is a fundamental shift away from sugar-sweetened soft drinks to low and no kilojoule varieties. This holds true for both children and adults.
Whilst the reasons why people become overweight and obese can be complex, maintaining an energy balance between what is consumed throughout the day and what is burnt off holds the key to maintaining a healthy weight. The industry provides a range of products, both with and without kilojoules, so people can choose the right beverages to help maintaining this energy balance.