Why Caloric Beverages Are Making Us Obese

by Fahad Ahmad on November 24, 2018

In 2009-2010, sugar sweetened beverages accounted for 8.0% and 6.9% of the daily energy intake in youth and adult respectively (1). However, the problem may be bigger than that as there are other beverages with no added sugar that elicit weaker dietary response as beverages in general have a very short term to negligible impact on satiety(2) or elicits a very weak compensatory response(3) compared to semi-solid or solid foods. This can result in an increase in daily energy intake as the body doesn't seem to "detect" the beverage and bypasses satiety mechanisms, especially when combined with other components of the meal. The problem exists not only with sugar sweetened beverages but with any solid food or macronutrient source that could be turned into a beverage or consumed in a liquid form(including turning cheese into milk), disregarding whether it's proteins, carbohydrates or fats(4). Some exceptions could exist such as added MCT oils that are rapidly converted to energy, ramp up energy expenditure, temporarily lower hunger and thus invoke a high compensatory response(5). Proteins in their isolated peptide and beverage form elicit no compensatory response and have no impact on satiety or energy intake making them not a viable solution for fat loss when in a beverage form(6). Carbohydrates, fat emulsions and highly salty solutions could be potentially utilized to induce satiety through hyperosmolarity in the small intestines(7) but the dosage required for this may compromise the taste of the product making it not palatable at all. The same could be said about flavor components(8) that can be used to induce satiety but the dosage or flavor component(eg. bitterness) may be too aversive for the consumer. With that being said, viscosity, most likely dependent on the thickening agent or emulsifier, does seem to provide some satiety inducing effect of beverages(9) but this comes at the cost of the easy flow of the beverage. However, this may also explain the potentially higher satiety of consumer grade protein shakes and various satiety inducing beverages as they contain emulsifers, thickening and/or foaming agents that provide some structure and thickness to the beverage when compared to sugary sodas with aerated bubbles. In fact, hydrolyzing, pre-digesting and reducing the viscosity of starch can be used to drastically increase daily energy intake(10) which may be an option in malnourished countries but definitely the exact opposite of what's desired in countries like USA with skyrocketing rates of obesity. Another interesting study to note is that processing the solid form of fruits and vegetables into a beverage form, the total energy intake increases for both lean and obese individuals while post-meal satiety is lower(11).


Most mainstream finger pointing is towards sugar sweetened beverages and doesn't include other beverage forms or low viscous emulsions such as sauces and liquid drizzles that could have a lower compensatory response while adding to the daily energy intake. Such results could also include food structures like ice-cream which liquifies right before it reaches the throat, turning into an aerated beverage form. This may add to the puzzle as to why many diets inititally work really well as many of them may have reduced beverage or liquid intake as well, including low carb or ketogenic diets. This may be another reason why adding butter(it does have some MCT & CLA which do invoke substantial compensatory response on their own(12)) to the coffee may be only a half smart idea. Before addressing snacking, maybe addressing this giant elephant in the room aka. beverages and liquids might give the most bang for the buck when it comes to lowering the nation's obesity epidemic. Also, it might be time to look at other components in the foods(eg. emulsifiers, thickening agents) that may allow us to provide higher satiety response and lowered energy intake in processed foods as these componenents exist in many farmed and selectively bred foods to provide them with a satiety inducing structure(eg. egg lecithin gives eggs some structural integrity and aeration). Further area of interest include gastrointestinal transit times(13) of various food forms, chemical and physical structures and isolated macronutrients along with relatively inert chemicals such as erythritol, a sugar alcohol and "zero calorie" sweetener, which delays gastric emptying and impact gut hormones in a purposeful way(14).

The simplest solution here could be to replace low viscosity beverages with zero or low calorie beverages such as sparkling water or diet soda. A simple rule of thumb could be, the more "watery" a beverage is, the less satiating it is, disregarding the macronutrient composition as the flow of the liquid may be a good gauge of its complete structural breakdown. Semi-solid or solid foods are usually a safe bet. Some of these principles aforementioned have been applied to our Energy Pods and we will continue to learn and apply knowledge and research towards our future products. Lets usher in a genre of better processed foods of the future!


Fahad is the founder of Ketogeek and hosts the Ketogeek Podcast, a world class health show about food, nutrition and health. He is into resistance training, Ashtanga yoga, calisthenics and various forms of training styles. Armed with a idealistic goals distilled in a world of realism, his goal is to help the world make a better place. He leads a life of extreme generalism or as he describes it, 'The Renaissance Lifestyle'.


It never ceases to amaze me how prosaic, pedestrian, unimaginative people can persistently pontificate about classical grammatical structure as though it's fucking rocket science. These must be the same people who hate Picasso, because he couldn't keep the paint inside the lines and the colors never matched the numbers.”
― Abbe Diaz


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