LOS ANGELES -- A new online sugar calculator aims to help Los Angeles County residents become healthier by quantifying the amount of sugar they consume in beverages.
The interactive tool, developed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Choose Health LA initiative, lets users enter the number of regular sodas, sports and energy drinks, frozen coffee drinks or sweetened teas they consume each week, then calculates the packs and pounds of sugar they are consuming and the amount of money they are spending each week, month, year and five years.
Click here to access the sugar calculator.
The sugar calculator is the newest element of Choose Health LA's sugar-sweetened drink awareness campaign, and is launching simultaneously with transit and outdoor advertisements throughout Los Angeles County. A series of shareable social media videos showing the number of sugar packs in popular drinks is also available on the Choose Health LA Facebook page and website.
"Many people just don't realize how much added sugar is in these drinks and the extent to which it can add up over time," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "The goal of the sugar calculator is to help people understand and, ultimately, be inspired to reduce the number of sugar-loaded drinks they are consuming. Cutting back on sugary drinks is an easy and effective way for consumers to improve their health, he added.
Choose Health LA's campaign encourages residents to reduce the amount of sugary drinks they consume by replacing a daily soda with water, cutting back on the number of sugared coffees or teas they drink, or reducing the consumption of sports drinks. Suggested healthy alternatives include water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened coffee and 100% fruit juice diluted with water or sparkling water.
Organizers of the campaign claim obesity rates have increased in tandem with consumption of sugary drinks, which has reportedly doubled over the past 30 years, and that a child's risk for obesity increases an average of 60% with every additional daily serving of soda. They also point to research suggesting a link between sugary drinks and obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
In Los Angeles County, nearly 39% of adults and 43% of children ages 17 years or younger report drinking at least one soda or sweetened drink per day. That exceeds the American Heart Association recommendations of consuming no more than 450 calories from sugary drinks per week, or fewer than three 12-fl.oz. cans of soda, L.A. health officials point out.
As part of the initiative, Choose Health LA is also working closely with community organizations, cities, schools and employers to increase access to healthy foods and beverages.