A new online Sugar Calculator aims to help Los Angeles County, Calif. residents become healthier by quantifying the packs and pounds of sugar they consume in sugar-loaded beverages each week, as well as the total cost of these drinks over time. The interactive tool, developed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Choose Health LA initiative, lets users enter the number of regular sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, frozen coffee drinks or sweetened teas they consume each week, then calculates the packs and pounds of sugar they are consuming and the amount of money they are spending each week, month, year and five years. The Sugar Calculator can be found at: ChooseHealthLA.com/multimedia/sugar-calculator/.
The Sugar Calculator is the latest element in Choose Health LA's sugar-loaded drinks awareness campaign, and is launching simultaneously with transit and outdoor advertisements throughout LA County. A series of shareable social media videos showing the number of sugar packs in popular drinks is also available on the Choose Health LA Facebook page and website.
"Many people just don't realize how much added sugar is in these drinks and the extent to which it can add up over time," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director and Health Officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "The goal of the Sugar Calculator is to help people understand and, ultimately, be inspired to reduce the number of sugar-loaded drinks they are consuming. Cutting back on sugary drinks is an easy and effective way to improve your health."
Sugar-loaded beverages are a major source of added sugar in the American diet, and the largest single source of added sugars in children's diets. The health consequences related to excessive consumption of sugar-loaded beverages are serious: the extra calories in sugar-loaded drinks may lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. And obesity rates have increased in tandem with consumption of sugar-loaded drinks -- which has doubled over the past 30 years. In fact, a child's risk for obesity increases an average of 60 percent with every additional daily serving of soda.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 450 calories from sugary drinks per week, or fewer than three 12-oz. cans of soda. But in Los Angeles County, nearly 39 percent of adults and 43 percent of children ages 17 years or younger report drinking at least one soda or sweetened drink per day, far exceeding those limits.
Choose Health LA's sugar-loaded drinks campaign encourages residents to reduce the amount of sugar-loaded drinks they consume, whether that means replacing a daily soda with water, cutting back on the number of sugared coffees or teas they drink, or reducing the consumption of sports drinks. Suggested healthy alternatives include water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened coffee and 100-percent fruit juice diluted with water or sparkling water.
Choose Health LA is also supporting communities in their efforts to help make Los Angeles County a healthier place by working closely with community organizations, cities, schools and employers to increase access to healthy foods and beverages.
For more information on sugar-loaded drink consumption in Los Angeles County, connect with Choose Health LA online. Visit Choose Health LA on Twitter @ChooseHealthLA, on Facebook and at ChooseHealthLA.com.