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About one in every four people aged 18 to 34 drank one or more sodas per day, the study found, compared to just 10 percent of people age 55 or older. Men were more likely to drink sodas each day than women, at 21 percent versus 13.5 percent, respectively.

And while 21 percent of blacks and almost 23 percent of Hispanics drank a soda or more each day, that number fell to below 16 percent for whites, the researchers found.

Better education about the poor nutritional content of sodas and fruit drinks might help turn this situation around, the CDC team said. They pointed to prior research that showed that blacks were less knowledgeable about the caloric content of the average 24-ounce soda compared to whites. (That size cola averages about 300 calories, according to Harvard University researchers.)

Factors such as poverty, cultural issues and a lack of access to more nutritious food and drink options might play a role in state-to-state disparities in soda/fruit drink consumption, the researchers added.

Other nutrition experts had little good to say about sugary beverages.

"One of the main evils of soda is that it displaces other healthier choices," said Arlene Stein, nutrition support dietitian at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

"Calorically dense liquids like soda do not satiate hunger," she pointed out. "Rather, they promote a rush of insulin, resulting in hunger soon after consumption."

Nina Eng is chief clinical dietitian at Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y. She said that, "the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day [about 100 calories], and men consume no more than nine teaspoons [150 calories] per day."

According to Eng, "one 12-ounce serving of soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, which exceeds AHA recommendations for women in just one beverage."

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