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Restaurant beverages keep getting sweeter, study finds

If you’ve been out to eat at a large chain restaurant recently, you might have noticed the menu was a little longer than it was years ago.

According to a recent study, beverages now make up one third of restaurant menus.

The study looked at the evolution of 63 U.S. chain restaurant menus from 2012-2017.

Researchers measured calories, sugar and saturated fats of the beverage offerings.

For all newly introduced sweetened beverages, the amount of sugar increased significantly, while saturated fat declined.

The total number of drink offerings increased by 155% -- with 82% of the increase driven by sweetened beverages.

“The study shows us that the sweetened options and the diverse choices available on the menu has really increased, which I think is surprising, in light of the obesity epidemic and all the research that’s coming out how much sugar impacts our body,” said Ariana Cucuzza, of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study. 

Cucuzza said the uptick in sweetened beverages is a problem because of how often Americans eat out.

Too much sugar has been linked to weight gain, blood sugar problems and an increased risk of heart disease.

Cucuzza encourages people to read the nutrition labels to learn how many grams of sugar are in the drinks they are choosing from, so they can make better choices.

“You can make healthier options by picking things that are unsweetened, such as unsweetened ice tea, water -- flavored seltzer waters are really popular now– they’re usually available at restaurants as well,” she said. 

Cucuzza said planning ahead can also help us make better choices throughout the day. For instance, if you know you’re going to eat out for dinner, you can make healthier choices for breakfast and lunch to limit the damage.

Complete results of the study can be found in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.