Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Over time, too much liquid sugar can lead to serious diseases

Liquid sugar, such as in sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks, is the leading single source of added sugar in the American diet, representing 36% of the added sugar we consume.1 And there's growing scientific evidence that it's the most dangerous way to consume added sugar. (Video: What Does Sugar Actually Do To Your Body?)

In fact, drinking just one 12-oz can of soda per day can increase your risk of dying from heart disease by nearly one-third.2,3  Other studies show that people who drink one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day have a 26 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to people who drink less than one per month.4

What makes sweet drinks different?

Liquid sugar is the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet.1

Research suggests that our bodies process liquid sugar differently than sugar in foods, especially those containing fiber.5,

When we eat an apple, for example, we may be getting as many as 18 grams of sugar, but the sugar is "packaged" with about one-fifth of our daily requirement of fiber. Because it takes our bodies a long time to digest that fiber, the apple's sugar is slowly released into our blood stream, giving us a sustained source of energy.

But when we drink the same amount of sugar in sugary drinks, it doesn't include that fiber. As a result, the journey from liquid sugar to blood sugar happens quickly, delivering more sugar to the body's vital organs than they can handle. Over time, that can overload the pancreas and liver, leading to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease

When we drink sugary drinks, our bodies respond to that blast of sugar by producing triglycerides. Some of those fat globules will be stored in the liver; others will be exported into the bloodstream and, once there, may end up lining our arteries, putting us at risk for a heart attack. 

It's easy to consume too much

Americans consume 3-6 times more added sugar than the maximum recommended by nutritional experts.6

Studies also show that when we drink high-calorie beverages, we don't feel as full as we would if we had eaten the same number of calories.7

So it's easy to down 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of sugar in a single soda – about twice as many as in an apple – and hardly notice.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes mellitus, formerly called Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) and Adult Onset Diabetes (AODM), is a disease in which our body acts as if it does not have enough insulin to keep our blood sugar levels down at normal levels. This is likely a combined effect of the body not being normally sensitive to the insulin the pancreas does make combined with the pancreas not making enough insulin for the circumstances. There is a genetic component to this disease. The body uses insulin as a signal to store glucose in liver, muscle, and fat cells. High blood glucose causes many changes in the body that lead to damage to many parts of the body over time

SugarScience Glossary

Added sugar

Any sugar added in preparation of foods, either at the table, in the kitchen or in the processing plant. This may include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and others.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugar-sweetened beverages

(SSB) Means the same as liquid sugar, or sugary drinks.

SugarScience Glossary

Sugary drinks

Means the same as sugar-sweetened beverages or liquid sugars.

SugarScience Glossary

Heart disease

A broad term for a group of chronic diseases of the heart, these diseases include problems with blood supply to heart muscle, problems with heart valves and the electrical system of the heart. Another term you will see used to mean the same thing is cardiovascular disease.

SugarScience Glossary

Liver disease

A broad term meaning any bodily process in which the liver is injured or does not work as it is supposed to. In this website we focus on liver diseases in which the diet hurts the liver

SugarScience Glossary

Diabetes mellitus

Usually shortened to just diabetes. Sometimes called sugar diabetes. Look at Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes for more information

SugarScience Glossary


The most common type of fat in our body and in our food. We can eat triglycerides, our bodies can make triglyceride, and our livers can turn excess sugar into triglycerides. If we do not burn triglycerides as fuel, they are stored as fat in the liver and elsewhere in the body.

SugarScience Glossary


One of the three major groups of nutrients we eat. Much of this website is related to problems associated with too much fat storage in the body. Each gram of fat produces 9 calories of energy if burned by the body as fuel. Fat can be stored in many places in the body. We generally think of fat as under the skin (subcutaneous), but the fat that may be most damaging to us is the fat stored in the liver and around the organs of the abdomen (intrahepatic and visceral or abdominal or intra-abdominal)

SugarScience Glossary


The largest internal organ. It weighs about three to four pounds and is located under the lower edge of the ribs on the right side. It helps us digest our food and remove toxins from our blood. "Hepat" in a word means liver, so an "hepato-toxin" is a liver poison or something that can cause damage to the liver

SugarScience Glossary


The pancreas is an internal organ that helps us digest our food by making insulin and other chemicals.

SugarScience Glossary

SugarScience Facts

Americans consume an average of 66 pounds of added sugar each year.

SugarScience Facts

Too much added sugar from soda and sports drinks overloads critical organs, which can lead to diseases.

SugarScience Facts

To make foods "low fat," many food companies replaced the fat with added sugar.

SugarScience Facts

There are at least 61 names for added sugar on food labels.

SugarScience Facts

Liquid sugar (sugar in beverages like soda and sports drinks) is the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet (36%).

SugarScience Facts

Growing scientific evidence shows that too much added sugar, over time, is linked to diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

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