By replacing caloric beverages with non- caloric beverages, the average American could lose 35 pounds a year with no other dietary changes.
Body fat is becoming a national crisis. In the U.S., 74% of men and 64% of women are overweight or obese– almost 70% of the adult population (1). Eleven percent of American adults have diabetes and 35% have pre-diabetes (2). The American military rejects 27% of recruits because they are too heavy and more than half of active duty personnel are overweight (3).
Dieters often spend hundreds to try to sweat off weight in a gym when a cheaper and easier strategy would be more effective.
Government statistics reveal that the average American adult drinks 400 calories a day in the form of regular soda, energy and sports drinks, alcoholic beverages, milk, 100% fruit juice and fruit drinks, in that order(4). Caloric beverages constitute 21% of all calories consumed by the average American.
But throughout most of man's history, water was the primary beverage. Fruit juices, wine and beer are recent inventions–only in the past several thousand years. Coca-Cola arrived on the scene in 1886, Gatorade started in 1965, and energy drinks, the most recent high calorie fad, have only become a significant force in the past decade. When compared to the hundreds of thousands of years that humans have been around, most caloric beverages have only been available for the blink of an eye. Therefore, it is not surprising that the body tends to ignore beverage calories.
Scientific studies support this premise (5). In one study, students were allowed to eat as much pizza as they wanted, accompanied by no beverage, a non- caloric beverage, or a caloric beverage such as milk, soda, or orange juice (6). The students ate the same amount of food, whether or not they consumed a beverage, and felt just as full, whether or not the beverage had calories. However, when the beverage had calories, these calories were added to the meal–the student's bodies did not seem to count the liquid calories as food calories.
Although the pizza-eating study found that milk acted like soda or juice, other studies find milk the exception to the body ignoring liquid calories. This makes sense, we are designed to thrive on human milk, and cows' milk is a similar substitute. In some studies, milk is the single beverage that the body seems to acknowledge and therefore reduce the consumption of other foods.
Subtracting the 2.9% of calories (about 64 calories a day) the average American drinks as milk, he still drinks 336 calories a day. Applying the standard that it takes 3,500 calories to lose a pound, if the average American would replace the non-milk caloric beverages with natural (7) zero calorie drinks and not replace those drinks with other calories, he could lose 35 pounds a year!
5. Tate, Deborah, et al., “Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main results of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trial,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Mar 2012; 95(3): 555–563, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632875/
6. Panahi ,S.I., El Khoury D., Luhovyy B.L., Goff H.D., Anderson G.H., "Caloric beverages consumed freely at meal-time add calories to an ad libitum meal," Appetite. 2013 Jun;65:75-82 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pubmed/23402713
7. Whether low or no calorie sweeteners help or hurt weight loss is unresolved. In observational studies, they seem to be correlated with weight gain, but in controlled studies where they replace sugar, they seem to help with weight loss. http://ajcn.nutrition. org/content/100/3/765.full The safest approach for dieters is to stick to natural zero calorie beverages like water, tea and coffee.