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CSPI, Scientists Urge FDA to Keep a Check on Sugars in Sugary Drinks

Update Date: Feb 14, 2013 07:02 AM EST

Scientists have now joined health organizations in the battle against obesity. The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced Wednesday that it is now urging the FDA to keep a check on the amount of high fructose corn syrup and other kind of sugars that are added in popular sodas.

About six teaspoons of sugars is what makes a healthy diet, but Americans get more than twice that amount (16 teaspoons) of sugar from a regular 20 oz bottle of soda, said CSPI. Despite the fear around artificial sweeteners, scientists believe that they are far safer than the full-calorie drinks that people are consuming now.

Sugary drinks have been blamed for the rise of obesity rates in the U.S. Recently, three large studies have said that sugary drinks increase obesity risk.

"As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption. Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease," said Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI executive director, in a news release.

CSPI said that discoveries of better sweeteners will help bring down the use of full-calorie drinks. One kind of sweetener that is being studied now is rebiana, which is made from the stevia plant.

"If one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks. The evidence is so strong that it is essential that FDA use its authority to make sugary drinks safer," said Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Currently, FDA categorizes high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and other sweeteners as "generally recognized as safe", or "GRAS". However, CSPI says that the amounts of sugars that are being added to drinks are unhealthy and that the agency must set a standard level for added sugars. Although the CSPI petition doesn't say how much of added sugar is under the safe limit, it says that about two and a half teaspoons or 10 grams is a "reasonable limit in a healthier drink".

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