LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - Oct 5, 2011) - The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's RENEW LA County initiative today launched its first-ever sugar-loaded drink awareness campaign aimed at addressing a major contributor to the county's obesity epidemic. Fueled by the release of local data on obesity and sugar-loaded drink consumption, the campaign will inform the public of the amount of sugar in popular drinks such as sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks, and the direct impact that excessive consumption of sugar-loaded drinks has on obesity, especially for the county's children.

The sugar-loaded drink campaign will illustrate the amount of sugar in popular drinks by showing the equivalent amount of sugar packs and asking the question: if you wouldn't eat that much sugar, why are you drinking it? Campaign elements will include shareable social media videos, an interactive sugar calculator, targeted Facebook ads, posters, flyers, outreach to schools, paid transit advertisements, online videos and more. The shareable videos, featured on the Choose Health LA website and Facebook page, show a 20-oz. soda, a 20-oz. sports drink and a 16-oz. energy drink being poured into a glass. As the liquid is poured, it turns into sugar and then into sugar packs showing the average sugar content for the different drinks. Similar visuals will be used throughout the campaign.

More than 58 percent of adults in Los Angeles County are overweight or obese, and almost 23 percent of county children in grades 5, 7 and 9 are obese. For younger children, obesity rates have increased from 16.7 percent in 2003 to 21.8 percent in 2008. Obesity rates have increased in tandem with consumption of sugar-loaded drinks -- which has doubled over the past 30 years. Sugar-loaded beverages are the largest single source of added sugar in the American diet. The health consequences related to excessive consumption of sugar-loaded beverages are serious: the extra calories in sugar-loaded drinks may lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

"If we're serious about doing something about the disturbing obesity trend, we have to start with the biggest culprits," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "There is a tremendous lack of awareness about the amount of sugar in these drinks. Our goal is to empower all county residents -- especially parents and caregivers -- so they can make informed decisions about their drink choices for themselves and their families."

In Los Angeles County, more than 43 percent of children ages 17 years or younger consume at least one sugar-loaded drink on an average day. A child's risk for obesity increases an average of 60 percent with every additional daily serving of soda.

Among adults in Los Angeles County, nearly 39 percent report drinking at least one soda or sweetened drink per day, far exceeding the American Heart Association's recommendation of no more than 450 calories from sugary drinks per week, or fewer than three 12-oz. cans of soda. Certain populations and regions in the county are more vulnerable than others. Among those residents consuming sugar-loaded drinks at a higher rate than the rest of the county are:

  • Young adults ages 18-24: 70.8 percent drink at least one soda or sweetened drink per day
  • Latinos: 51.2 percent drink at least one soda or sweetened drink per day
  • African Americans: 48 percent drink at least one soda or sweetened drink per day
  • Residents of South Los Angeles: 56.2 percent drink at least one soda or sweetened drink per day
  • Residents of East Los Angeles: 54 percent drink at least one soda or sweetened drink per day
  • Low-income residents: 52.2 percent drink at least one soda or sweetened drink per day

The obesity problem also directly impacts Los Angeles County's economy. Health care and lost productivity resulting from overweight and obesity cost the county nearly $6 billion annually.

The campaign encourages residents to reduce the amount of sugar-loaded drinks they consume, whether that means 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 with all exercise. Suggested healthy alternatives include water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened coffee and 100 percent fruit juice diluted with water or sparkling water.

In addition, RENEW LA County is pursuing successful policy interventions to help make Los Angeles County's communities healthier by working closely with cities, schools and employers to increase access to healthy foods and beverages in high-need communities.

For more information on sugar-loaded drink consumption in Los Angeles County, connect with Choose Health LA online, which represents all of the public health efforts of RENEW LA County. Visit Choose Health LA on Twitter @ChooseHealthLA, on Facebook and at ChooseHealthLA.com.

About RENEW LA County
The LA County Department of Public Health's RENEW (Renew Environments for Nutrition, Exercise and Wellness) initiative seeks to improve nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce obesity in LA County. RENEW LA County is made possible by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative.

About LA County Department of Public Health
The LA County Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit the YouTube channel at youtube.com/lapublichealth, find Public Health on Facebook at facebook.com/lapublichealth, or follow Public Health on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.

About Los Angeles Universal Preschool
Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is a non-profit organization established to provide high-quality preschool education to the children of Los Angeles County. Since 2005, LAUP has touched the lives of more than 50,000 of preschool-aged children through enriching curricula and nurturing environments aimed to best prepare four-year-olds to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. LAUP is primarily funded by First 5 LA.