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News Release

For immediate use 

March 8, 2006 -- No. 130

UNC nutrition professor leads creation
of Healthy Beverage Guidelines

CHAPEL HILL American adults consume an estimated 21 percent of their daily calories from beverages – twice as much as the 10 percent recommended by the World Health Organization. The Beverage Guidance Panel, initiated and led by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor, wants to reverse that trend and help people understand how to choose healthy beverages as part of a balanced nutritional diet. The group has developed the first Healthy Beverage Guidelines, which appear in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Many people either forget or don’t realize how many extra calories they consume in what they drink, yet beverages are a major contributor to the alarming increase in obesity," said Dr. Barry M. Popkin, who is a professor of nutrition, a department housed in UNC’s schools of public health and medicine. He also directs the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Program.

"The Healthy Beverage Guidelines will show Americans the impact that liquid calories have on their overall diets and help them make responsible beverage choices."

The group recommends that people should drink more water and limit or eliminate high-calorie beverages with little or no nutrition value. The panel members have grouped beverages into six categories and recommend a range of how much in each category people should drink daily.

"Some of these beverages, like nonfat milk, provide essential nutrients," Popkin said. "People, especially children and adolescents, should drink the recommended amounts every day."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid guidelines for food intake recommend three servings per day of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese or other foods made from milk that retain their calcium content. The one or two servings of low-fat or fat-free milk recommended by the panel also count as one or two servings of milk under the MyPyramid guidelines.

The panel recommends that only between four and eight ounces of fruit juice should be consumed daily. While juice contains important nutrients, it also contains significant calories, the panel reported.

Also, the panel recommends limiting caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day (about 32 ounces of coffee or double that for tea). Tea and coffee represent healthy alternatives to water for those who prefer flavored beverages, Popkin said.

"The good news is that making healthy beverage choices doesn’t mean giving up taste," he added.

Members of the Beverage Guidance Panel are global leaders in obesity, nutrition and chronic disease research and have led or been parts of the recent Institute of Medicine Dietary Guidelines. They are:

Their conclusions were based on a systematic review of literature on beverages and health. A meeting in Boston, in addition to a long set of discussions during six months, led to the final panel report.

The meeting of the Beverage Guidance Panel in Boston was funded by the Unilever Health Institute; however, the institute had no power to influence or veto decisions and did not attempt to make changes to the recommendations issued by the panel.

More information about the Healthy Beverage Guidelines, including the report, is available at www.beverageguidancepanel.org.

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Note: Contact Popkin at popkin@unc.edu or (919) 966-1732.

School of Public Health Contact: Ramona DuBose, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu

UNC News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 or deborah_saine@unc.edu