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I'm certainly not the only one concerned about the issue of liquid calories. A national Beverage Guidance Panel made up of six leading nutrition experts came together recently to decide on beverage guidelines for the U.S.

The panel made a list of recommendations, but the item that impressed me most was their ranking of beverages to fulfill our daily liquid needs. Water was ranked as the preferred beverage (big surprise); followed by tea and coffee; and low-fat (1% or 1.5%) and skim milk and soy beverages. Ranked after that were artificially sweetened beverages, then fruit juices and alcoholic beverages (which have calories but some nutritional benefits), then whole milk, and then sugar-sweetened drinks.

5 Points About Liquid Calories

Here are five points to consider about liquid calories:

1. Liquid calories may not be a wise investment of your calories.

Liquid calories don't seem to register in the stomach like food calories do, so they don't satisfy hunger as well. The next time you drink a high-calorie beverage, check in with your stomach an hour later. How do you feel? Are you still satisfied?

A group of researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill explain in a recent journal article that fructose (the chief component in high-fructose corn syrup) is different from glucose in that it does NOT stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. And higher levels of insulin and leptin in the blood stream help regulate body weight by serving as signals that food has been eaten.

2. Watch the high-fructose corn syrup.

Some experts say that part of the rise in obesity in the United States is due to our rising consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, which is used in many soft drinks, fruit juices, and sports drinks.

One study found that rats fed a high-fructose diet were more likely to develop features of metabolic syndrome, says researcher Richard J. Johnson, MD, of the University of Florida College of Medicine. Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms linked to a high risk of diabetes and heart disease.

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