What if, as you reached for a can of soda or other sweet beverage, you saw a warning label calling attention to the health risks associated with the drink you were about to consume. Would warning labels on sugary drinks make you stop and reconsider your purchase, or would you ignore them and indulge anyway? The findings from a new study suggest that the labels do work, and they lead to healthier drink choices and the search for healthier alternatives.

Warning labels on products we consume are not new. They are present on cigarettes and alcohol, and have been shown to increase consumers’ knowledge about the dangers of them and discourage their use.

Dietary guidelines suggest that 10 percent or fewer of your daily calories should come from sugar, yet one sugar-sweetened drink could put you over the top.

Sugary beverages, like sodas, energy drinks and fruit-flavored drinks, are the leading source of added sugars in the diets of Americans, and they increase the risk for tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease, the number one killer in the U.S.

Dietary guidelines suggest that 10 percent or less of daily calories should come from sugar, yet one sugary drink could put you over the top. Should these beverages have a warning label, too?

Researchers at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill reviewed 23 previous studies beverage warnings about sugar that included information from over 16,000 people. They found that sugary drink warnings generally led to a significant decrease in the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages.

“Our findings suggest that sugary drink warnings help consumers better understand products' healthfulness and encourage consumers to make healthier choices about what drinks to buy,” said one of the authors of the study, Anna H. Grummon, Ph.D., of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “These results highlight the potential usefulness of sugary drink warning policies in both informing consumers and reducing consumption of unhealthy beverages like sodas, energy drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.”

Whether or not warning labels are present, most of us know that sugary drinks aren’t good for our health. You can make smarter beverage choices by following these tips:

  • Invest in a water bottle, keep it with you and refill it throughout the day.
  • Don’t stock the fridge with sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge instead.
  • Lemon isn’t the only thing you can add to water to give it flavor. Try limes, oranges, watermelon and cucumber, too.
  • Make water your go-to beverage with meals.
  • When you drink tea or coffee, drink it unsweetened.
  • The study was presented as part of the American Society of Nutrition’s 2020 Nutrition meeting which was held as NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE due to the COVID-19 pandemic.