A gas station worker stocks grape soda in a display case. Overconsumption of sugary drinks are a major contributor to adult and adolescent obesity in Bexar County. Photo by Scott Ball
Overconsumption of sugary drinks is a major contributor to adult and adolescent obesity in Bexar County. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A recent commentary in the Rivard Report – Salud America!: Combatting Sugary Drinks, Unhealthy Weight Among Preschoolers – addressed a serious challenge facing communities in our nation: childhood obesity. Reducing obesity rates and improving the health and wellbeing of San Antonians young and old is critically important.

However, the writer ignored an important fact – it’s unproductive to assert that cutting out a single food, beverage, or ingredient is the silver bullet for health.

Americans are taking in more calories than ever, but beverages like sports drinks, soft drinks, teas, and juice are a small part of that. Beverages with sugar account for only 6% of calories in the average diet. Instead of demonizing a small source of calories, we must remember that all calories count, regardless of the source.

Some of our industry’s products do have many calories, so we believe we must play a role in improving public health, which is why we remain committed to comprehensive actions to help cut sugar consumption in the American diet. Through the American Beverage Association’s Balance Calories Initiative, our companies are driving a reduction in the sugar and calories consumed from beverages across the U.S. and engaging with prominent public health and community organizations in this effort. Our goal is to reduce by 20% the beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 2025.

This initiative includes doing the hard work of changing behavior in communities with some of the highest obesity rates in the country, such as the Mississippi Delta and rural Alabama. We’re providing new beverage options, information, and encouragement to help people cut back on calories and sugar.

Another way beverage companies are doing their part is through the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America’s partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Since 2012, grants have been awarded through the Childhood Obesity Prevention Awards program to mayors across the country, including two from Texas, who are going above and beyond in their efforts to address childhood obesity in their communities. These grants fund education programs that have impacted hundreds of thousands of children, helping them to understand the importance of balancing their diet.

We also know the importance of water on health and hydration. America’s leading beverage companies are partners in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Drink Up! initiative. Just last week we launched Drink Up! Los Angeles with the Partnership for a Healthier America. The Drink Up! campaign in Los Angeles is part of the broader Drink Up! initiative aimed at increasing consumption of water.

The beverage industry is proud to be doing its part to offer meaningful and lasting solutions to the challenge of obesity across our great country. Providing Americans the tools they need to make the best decisions for their families, like nutrition education and more information, is the surest way to make an impact on obesity rates.

Our work with public health and civic groups to actually reduce calorie and sugar consumption is a stronger way forward to bring about lasting change. We will remain engaged in public health issues because we, too, want a strong, healthy America.

Katherine McLane represents the Texas Beverage Association. The association serves as a liaison between the industry, government and the public, and provides a unified voice in legislative and regulatory...