Helping Sugar Sweetened Beverage Consumption Trends Go The Right Way

Signs of Life for Sugar Sweetened Beverage Consumption Trends

Shut Out Sugar brochure

A recent research study by Sara N. Bleich, PhD, et al at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that simple signs that link exercise to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption does help teens make healthier choices.  Fortunately, this study was picked up by multiple media outlets noted below, adding needed exposure to the detrimental effects of sugar-sweetened beverages.

  • HealthDay (10/17, Preidt) also reports on the study, saying researchers installed signs “in six corner stores in low-income, predominately black neighborhoods in Baltimore” informing consumers about calories, sugar and the exercise needed to burn off a soda. Of the teens interviewed after a drink purchase, “59 percent said they believed the information on the signs and 40 percent said they changed their purchases as a result.”
  • BBC News (10/17) reports on the research and said “the most effective sign said it took five miles to walk off the 250 calories in a sugary drink.”
  • CNN (10/16, Wilson) reports, while “more than 20 chain restaurants will be posting calorie counts on their menus” by next year, the research suggests “the number of calories in a food or beverage item doesn’t mean much to many folks.” However, showing people how much physical activity is needed to burn those same calories makes a difference.

Instead of lecturing the population about the overarching concept of the health impact of excessive sugar intake and the science behind it, this study further substantiates the need to simplify the message in a manner that is relevant to the constituency.  Stating that you have to walk 3 miles to burn off the 227 calories of a 20 ounce soda, is far more effective and powerful than just stating calorie counts

In Harris County, the HCMS “Shut Out Sugar” Program, takes a similar approach, using local landmarks as examples of distances to run to burn off calories consumed by sugar sweetened beverages.  You can read more about the “Shut Out Sugar” campaign at or a previous post.

Another positive step in addressing personal responsibility is the fact that several restaurant chains have not only begun to post calorie counts, but some have also started to show people how much physical activity is needed to burn those same calories.

The more exposure this topic gets the greater the impact on the fight against obesity.


Houston facial plastic surgeon, Russell Kridel, MD, is currently a member of the AMA Board of Trustees and the immediate past chair of the AMA Council on Science and Public Health.

Any views expressed on this blog should be considered personal views of Dr. Kridel and are not official statements of AMA policy (which is set by the AMA House of Delegates) nor are they official descriptions of actions of the AMA Board of Trustees.

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