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Concurrent Session: Is it time for guidance on beverages?

Friday, May 6, 2016
1:45pm - 3:00pm


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Is it time for guidance on beverages?

The Canada's Food Guide promotes a pattern of eating that helps meet nutrient needs and reduce the risk of diet related chronic diseases.  While the focus of the Canada's Food Guide is on the role of foods to provide energy and nutrients, beverages also make a significant contribution to the intake of food groups and nutrients in the Canadian diet (CCHS, 2004).  Beverages are important for hydration and contribute to healthy eating by providing not only nutrients but also bioactives. Some beverages, especially those rich in added sugars or natural sugars can contribute to calorie intake.

In this session, the first speaker will provide an overview of the Canada's Food Guide and its role in addressing nutrient excess and nutrient shortfalls.  The speaker will discuss the contribution of beverages to both positive food groups and nutrients to encourage, as well as to nutrients to limit (saturated fat, sugars and sodium for example). The second speaker will outline the principles and a model framework for beverage guidance.  The speaker will show how such a framework can be a tool to help consumers understand how the right balance of beverages can help maintain hydration, meet nutrient shortfalls, and obtain functional bioactives. The framework will also address how beverage choice can be used to control the intake of nutrients to limit such as sugars, saturated fat and sodium.

The goal is to foster a conversation among the scientific community about beverage consumption patterns in Canada, their role in health and wellness and the benefits of beverage guidance to help Canadians understand the right beverage choices for healthy diet patterns.

What we know about beverage consumption in Canada
Dr. Mary L'Abbé

Thirst is a powerful signal that prevents dehydration in healthy adults. While 20% of water can potentially come from solid foods, the majority is consumed from beverages, either as calorie-free drinks (plain water, tea, coffee or sugar-free beverages) or in the form of energy-containing beverages (e.g., soft drinks, juices etc.). Findings of the Canadian Community Health Survey 2.2 demonstrated that about 20-30% and 11-20% of daily calories among Canadians <18 years and those over 19 years come from beverage intakes, respectively.

Men are more likely than women to usually consume 1 serving of soft drinks/day (61% vs. 53%) and the likelihood reduces with age, with 18-24 year olds the most likely (65%) and 65+ year olds the least likely (44%). Drinking diet or calorie-free soft drinks is more common among those over 35, with 37% almost always or always drinking diet or calorie-free soft drinks compared to only 18% of younger Canadians. Younger Canadians (56%) are more likely to add sugar, honey, or other sweeteners to their coffee or tea than Canadians over the age of 55 (38%). In a recent survey of Canadians conducted by our team using the C-DHQ-II Diet History Questionnaire, the most common beverages consumed over the past month were water (91%), followed by soft drinks and coffee (70% each), coffee (58%), 100% orange/grape fruit juice (58%), milk or milk substitutes (56%), hot tea (50%), beer (50%), wine (49%), other 100% fruit juices (46%), and liquor or mixed drinks (37%).

When evaluated as a part of an energy-dense, high-fat, low-fiber dietary pattern associated with higher BMIs, carbonated drinks were the second largest contributor to this unhealthy dietary pattern (positive loading: 0.31), after fast foods (0.35), and increased the risk of obesity by over 3.5 times (95% CI: 2.61-4.84). Collectively, these results point to the urgent need for detailed guidance on healthy beverage consumption in Canada, which needs to be included in the next updated Canada’s Food Guide.

What to drink? Scientific evidence and guidance on health effects of water, reduced-fat and whole milk, SSBs, and juice
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian

Dr. Mozaffarian will outline the scientific evidence and a model framework for Beverage Guidance, with a focus on obesity and metabolic and cardiovascular health. He will show how such evidence supports specific guidance for consumers on which beverages to consume liberally, which to consume in moderation, and which to avoid.

Joint Session:




Dr. Mary R. L’Abbé

Earle W. McHenry Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

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