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5 States Drinking Too Much Soda

24/7 Wall St. logo 24/7 Wall St. 5/5/2015 Thomas C. Frohlich

Soda on a shelf © Getty Images/Getty Images Soda on a shelf

In 18 states, more than 26% of adults consume sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit drinks at least once daily. Sugary drinks are one of the primary sources of added sugars in U.S. diets and have been associated with a range of negative health outcomes.

While there is limited data on sweetened beverage consumption by state, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Among Adults -- 18 States, 2012” as part of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Based on the report, a higher percentage of Mississippi residents consume sugary beverages on a daily basis than any other state reviewed. 

The association between sugary drink consumption and obesity is well established. “Reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle might help with weight management and reduce the risk for chronic diseases among U.S. adults,” wrote CDC researchers. The obesity rates in four of the five states with the highest sugar consumption fell in the top half of all states, and the obesity rates in three states were among the top 10.

High sugar consumption in these states also accompanied other, relatively unhealthy habits. While 37.7% of Americans reported consuming fruits less than once daily, which is considered low, a far higher percentage in four of the five states reported even lower fruit intake. Similarly, residents of all five states were far less likely to eat vegetables than their nationwide peers.

As the CDC report noted, high sweetened-beverage consumption could be due to food environment and beverage marketing factors. In fact, sugary drinks are frequently granted greater advertising space in grocery stores located in the Southern United States, where three of the five top states for sugar consumption are located.

In addition, poor diets in these areas could be attributed to relatively poor socioeconomic factors more generally. Not only is healthier food often less affordable, but also a certain level of education generally helps improve health literacy, which in turn helps maintain healthy lifestyles. Less than 25% of residents in four of the five states had at least a bachelor’s degree, much lower than the national college attainment rate of nearly 30%. Also, no state on this list had a median household income higher than the national median household income of $52,250.

5. Georgia

Georgia state capitol building © DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images Georgia state capitol building

> Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 33.1%> Obesity rate: 30.3%> Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 32.3%> Median household income: $47,829

Roughly one in three Georgian adults consumed regular soda and/or fruit drinks more than once a day, the fifth highest share among states reviewed. This was much higher than the just over 26% of American adults across the 18 states who reported more-than-daily sweetened beverage consumption. The reason for high sugar consumption is unclear. The CDC suggests, however, that poor diet quality is closely associated with lower socioeconomic status. As in all other five states with the highest sugary drink consumption, Georgia’s median household income of $47,829 was lower than the national median income figure of $52,250. Georgia’s poverty rate of 19% was also significantly higher than the national poverty rate of 15.8%.

ALSO READ: The Healthiest County in Each State

4. Oklahoma

Tulsa © David Liu/Getty Images Tulsa

> Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 34.5%> Obesity rate: 32.5%> Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 25.4%> Median household income: $45,690

More than half of Oklahoma residents reported consuming fruits less than once daily, nearly the highest proportion of residents consuming relatively few fruits. This was similar to just two other states reviewed. Low consumption of fruits and vegetables and high consumption of sugary drinks are both related to poor access to healthy food. Nearly one-quarter of state residents had poor access to sources of healthy and affordable food -- one of the higher rates nationwide. This likely made it more difficult for residents to eat a healthy diet and stay healthy. An estimated 9,121 years of potential life were lost in Oklahoma each year due to premature death, the fifth highest figure compared to all states.

3. Nevada

Las Vegas © Ocean/Corbis Las Vegas

> Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 36.3%> Obesity rate: 26.2%> Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 24.4%> Median household income: $51,230

The elements of a healthy diet, such as low intake of added sugars, often need to be learned. Poor health literacy often contributes to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. As in other states with high sugar consumption, Nevada residents had relatively low educational attainment rates. Less than 23% of adults in the state had at least a bachelor’s degree, much lower than the nearly 30% of Americans with at least a bachelor's degree. While Nevada’s high sugary drink consumption increases the likelihood of poor health outcomes such as chronic illness and premature death, the state’s obesity rate of 26.2% was among the lower rates nationwide, especially among top states for sugar consumption.

ALSO READ: The States With the Most McDonald's

2. Tennessee

Nashville skyline © Richard Cummins/Corbis Nashville skyline

> Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 39.2%> Obesity rate: 33.7%> Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 26.8%> Median household income: $44,297

High consumption of the often more affordable sugary beverages in Tennessee is largely the result of poor socioeconomic factors. Like all five states with the highest sugar consumption, Tennessee's median household income of $44,297 was considerably lower than the national median income. Also, nearly half of the children in the state were eligible for free school lunch, the 10th highest share compared to all states. Not only do low incomes frequently contribute to a poor diet, but low incomes make it difficult to address health conditions when they arise. More than 17% of Tennessee residents said they could not see a doctor due to costs, the fifth highest such percentage nationwide.

1. Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi © benkrut/Getty Images Jackson, Mississippi

> Pct. consuming soda and/or fruit drinks daily: 41.4%> Obesity rate: 35.1%> Pct. consuming vegetables less than daily: 23.2%> Median household income: $37,963

More than 41% of Mississippi adults reported more-than-daily consumption of regular soda or fruit drinks, by far the highest percentage among states reviewed. Nearly 51% reported less-than-daily fruit consumption, and more than 32% reported less-than-daily vegetable consumption, both some of the highest such rates. Relatively unhealthy diets in Mississippi are partly the result of poor socioeconomic factors, which can contribute to limited access to healthy food sources as well as lower health literacy levels among the population. Mississippi had the nation’s lowest median household income and the nation’s highest poverty rate at $37,963 and 24%, respectively.

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