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Time for Stronger Warnings About High-Sugar Drinks?

What do you think?

Hand up against high-sugar drink

When looking to improve nutrition for adults and kids, removing high-sugar drinks from the diet is a logical place to start. Can alarming images of health risks be an effective deterrent to the consumption of these? Research published in PLOS ONE suggests it can.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill placed sweetened drinks in a laboratory (set up to mimic a convenience store) and affixed them with graphic images that warned of diabetes, heart disease and overall health risks of consuming too much sugar. They found parents were 17% less likely to buy soda, juice and other sugary drinks for their kids.

In a post-shopping survey, parents said the fairly shocking imagery was effective in reminding them not to feed their kids high-sugar drinks and helped them to feel “in control” of making healthy eating decisions.

As another potential method to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, studies published by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago in JAMA Network Open and the Journal of Public Health Policy provide evidence that controversial taxes on sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks are effective and sustainable. This research used data from Seattle, where a tax was implemented in 2018. Perhaps, then, a sugar tax and warning labels on heavily sweetened drinks would pair well to help consumers make better choices.

Share your thoughts: Do you think pictorial health warnings are a good idea to help inform consumers about the potential risks of consuming certain drinks? Do you believe policy makers in the U.S. should consider legislation requiring sugary drinks to contain warnings on the packaging? Should these strategies (label warnings and extra taxes) be considered for unhealthy foods, as well? Do you consider graphic labels and soda taxes as nutrition policies that go too far in dictating what drinks consumers buy?

See also: Sugary Drinks and Warning Labels


Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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