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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Food Surveys Research Group » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #271526

Title: Beverage choices of U.S. adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008

item Lacomb, Randy
item Sebastian, Rhonda
item Enns, Cecilia
item Goldman, Joseph

Submitted to: Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/25/2011
Publication Date: 8/31/2011
Citation: LaComb, R.P., Sebastian, R.S., Enns, C.W., Goldman, J.D. 2011. Beverage choices of U.S. adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Beverages are an integral part of the diet. Fluids (drinking water and other beverages) provide over 80 percent of the daily intake of total water (moisture), which is necessary for life. Beverages can also be a significant source of calories and nutrients. Using the most recently released nationwide data on dietary intakes from What We Eat In America (WWEIA), NHANES 2007-2008, we examined the consumption of beverages and their contributions to nutrient intakes; differences in beverage choices by gender, age and race/ethnicity; and patterns of beverage consumption at meals and snacks. "Beverage Choices of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008," a Dietary Data Brief available on the Food Surveys Research Group Web site at, provides a snapshot of beverage consumption among adults. Findings include the following: Plain water, coffee, and regular soft/other drinks are the beverages reported by the largest percentages of adults age 20 years and over, with men drinking a combined total of about 11 cups of beverages per day and women drinking about 10 cups; older adults differ from younger adults in their beverage patterns, as they drink less beverages overall, obtain fewer calories from beverages, and drink more coffee and less plain water, regular soft/other drinks, and alcoholic beverages; non-Hispanic whites consume more beverages overall and more coffee, tea, and diet soft/other drinks than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics; at breakfast, the beverage most frequently reported by adults is coffee, and at other meals and snacks, it is plain water; beverages provide 18 percent of adults' daily intake of calories, and they contribute substantially to daily intake of added sugars, vitamins C and D, and calcium. Consequently, beverage choices can have a large impact on the healthfulness of the overall diet. By conveying this information through simple charts and brief text, this Dietary Data Brief widens the pool of users who can benefit from the Food Surveys Research Group’s ongoing work in monitoring and assessing food consumption and related behavior of the U.S. population. This information will be of benefit to legislators, program planners, media, and consumers who want clear and easily comprehensible information about beverage choices by adults in the United States.

Technical Abstract: The goals of this study were to describe beverage consumption patterns of the U.S. adult population, determine whether beverage choices differ by gender, age, and race/ethnicity, and examine the impact of beverages on total daily nutrient intakes. Twenty-four hour dietary recall data from 5,334 adults age 20 years and over participating in What We Eat In America (WWEIA), the dietary intake component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), in 2007-2008 were analyzed. T-tests were used to identify differences in calorie contribution of beverages between age groups and to detect differences in intake of selected beverage categories by gender, age, and race/ethnicity. Regression procedures were conducted to adjust mean estimates for confounding variables prior to testing for differences in beverage intake categories by age and race/ethnicity only. Both men and women drink an average of slightly more than 4 cups of plain water and over 1 cup each of coffee and regular soft/other drinks; men also consume over 1 cup of alcoholic beverages on any given day. Beverages contribute substantially to adults' daily intakes of added sugars, moisture/total water, vitamins C and D, and calcium. Not surprisingly, beverages provide essentially all the alcohol and caffeine in the diets of American adults. Beverage intake is related to age and race/ethnicity. Relative to younger adults, older adults obtain fewer calories (both total and as a proportion of total) from beverages, drink less beverages overall, and drink more coffee but less regular soft/other drinks, water, and alcoholic beverages than their younger counterparts. Non-Hispanic whites consume more beverages in total and more coffee, tea, and diet soft/other drinks than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. Beverage choice patterns vary by eating occasion. At breakfast, coffee is reported the most frequently (44 percent of beverage reports), whereas plain water and regular soft/other drinks are the first and second most frequently reported beverages at other meals and at snacks. The information furnished by this study is useful to anyone who is interested in the role of beverages in the diets of adults, including legislators, program planners, nutritionists, media, educators, and consumers.