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Liquid calories count. So here's to subtraction ...

April 7, 2009 | 12:07 pm

Waterglass They may be vitamin-fortified, antioxidant-laced, sport-specific or caffeine-enhanced, but those liquid calories are still calories. And they add up.

Now two new studies suggest that simply changing our drinking habits can reduce our overall calorie consumption.

In one study, published April 1 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and elsewhere found that adults who reduced their liquid calorie intake by just 100 calories a day lost a quarter of a kilogram -- just over half a pound -- in six months. (And that's just 100 calories a day -- not even a decent, nonfat mocha.)

The researchers also found that cutting calories from liquids led to more weight loss than cutting calories from solids.

Their conclusion: "These data support recommendations to limit liquid calorie intake among adults and to reduce [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption as a means to accomplish weight loss or avoid excess weight gain."

Meanwhile, researchers from Columbia Mailman School of Health and elsewhere analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and estimated that simply replacing all sugar-sweetened beverages among children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 would save each one 235 calories a day. (That's a pretty easy way to cut back without making kids feel deprived.) That study was published in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Their conclusion: "Replacing [sugar-sweetened beverage] intake with water is associated with reductions in total calories for all groups studied."

That journal also offers some free advice for parents, complete with some interesting facts (among which: 20% of male teenagers have four or more sodas a day). The top recommendation: "Eliminate sugary drinks at home. Just don't buy them. Replace with water, milk, or real fruit/vegetable juices. Encourage your child to drink lots of water."

Both studies point out that as our consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has increased, so has the obesity rate. It doesn't seem like a coincidence.

Perhaps water -- plain water -- might just be the no-calorie, meal-enhancing beverage that we all need. And it's one that wouldn't prime the sweets-loving pump the way that even low-calorie but sweeter drinks might. 

Maybe we should all switch.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Who knows -- we might get used to it. Credit: Los Angeles Times