Fueling the obesity epidemic

~ February 2011 No.236 ~

As the problem with obesity gets ever more evident, many are looking at what we are consuming that may be contributing to the problem. It appears that carbonated drinks may be contributing in part to this unhealthy condition. When you look at what is in soft drinks, and then consider how much these drinks are part of our diets, it is easy to see the cause for concern.

The label with nutrition facts table on soft drinks lists sugar glucose/fructose as the first ingredients after carbonated water. Drink manufacturers use high-fructose corn syrup that is approximately 55% fructose and 42% glucose as an inexpensive sweetening agent. High-fructose corn syrup is produced from corn starch, which is treated with enzymes to convert some of the starch glucose to fructose. Fructose is a geometrical isomer of glucose. Fructose is a stronger sweetening agent than glucose, and it is metabolized in the body differently than glucose. It is these sugars - glucose and fructose - that are contributing the 130-160 calories that are found in each can of soft drink. It doesn't sound like a lot until you realize that the average American consumes around 216 litres of soft drinks a year. That works out to 97,352 calories per year just from soft drinks!

Checking the list of ingredients on the can of drink reveals that, except for sugar, soft drinks provide little or none of the other nutrients such as vitamins or minerals that we need to stay healthy. It is for this reason, that soft drinks are often included on the list of foods providing "empty calories." They are packed with calories but very little else. Fruit juices are a better choice, because they do supply some vitamins. But remember that juices, like soft drinks, also are high in sugar.


Chemical structure of glucose and fructose


  1. Reference
    • Fowler SP, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008; 16: 1897–1900..
    • Soft drink consumption data


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Last modified

August 29 2016