A surge in sweetness?

It’s been a bad year for sugary drinks. In February, a federal advisory group recommended that people cut back. Groups like the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization said they should cut back even more — citing a growing body of scientific evidence, and the expanding waistlines of the average American.

On Tuesday, a broad-based community partnership called the Bexar Healthy Beverage Coalition launched a new campaign that aims to educate people and families on how much sugar they’re consuming through drinks such as sodas, sweet tea, energy drinks and fruit-flavored beverages, and promote water and other healthy beverages instead.

The campaign, titled Is Your Drink Sugar-Packed?” launches today with videos, posters and educational materials in both English and Spanish. They can be found online at a new website, www.sugar-packed.com . Additional materials will be added in the weeks to come.

“The purpose of this campaign is not to regulate what people consume, but to inform the public so they can make better decisions for themselves and their families,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “When you have all of the facts related to the health effects of sugar-sweetened beverages, it can be pretty alarming.”

Bexar County Commissioners Court passed a resolution in February supporting a campaign to educate local residents about how much sugar they’re consuming in beverages, given the concerns about obesity and diabetes in South Texas.

Dr. Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer of University Health System, recommends that people consider sugary drinks as if they were liquid candy bars — a high-calorie treat that should be consumed sparingly.

“Sugar-sweetened drinks are a contributor to the rise in obesity and are associated with adverse health conditions, both in our community and around the world,” Dr. Alsip said. “Sugar itself is a also major factor in tooth decay and gum disease, especially in children. “If you’re thirsty, drink water. Water quenches our thirst better, is abundantly available, and is what our bodies need for hydration. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks is a simple way to eliminate unnecessary calories from your diet and to improve your health.”

Partners in the Bexar Healthy Beverage Coalition include the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Bexar County, Bexar County Medical Society, Bexar County School Board Coalition, The Health Collaborative, Interlex Communications, San Antonio Business Group on Health, San Antonio Independent School District, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, Southside Independent School District, South Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Tiny Roar Creative, University Health System, University of Texas Institute for Health Promotion Research, Witte Museum and YMCA of Greater San Antonio.