What do Americans drink? Plenty of caffeine

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Berkeley, Calif., became the first city to impose a soda tax on Tuesday after more than two-thirds of voters agreed that soda drinking is tied to obesity and Diabetes.

The one-cent-an-ounce tax is expected to limit soda sales, based on a Harvard study that showed increasing the cost of a 20-ounce soda by 20 cents would drop purchases by 16 percent, according to Time magazine. A similar proposal failed in New York earlier this year, and San Francisco failed to pass a more stringent law on soda Tuesday.

How much soda do Americans drink, anyway? Why do some people feel that the government needs to help regulate it?

Amidst their midterm election coverage, FiveThirtyEight took a look at what Americans drink — with some interesting results. The data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2009 and 2010. The CDC polled around 5,600 adults on what they ate and drank over the course of two days.

The number one thing they drank? Tap water. (Phew.) It’s followed closely by bottled water, but per capita, we’re only getting about two glasses a day. Water needs vary depending on intake of food and other liquids, but if you’re drinking a lot of coffee (the fourth most popular drink) or a cola-type soft drink (sixth most popular) you’re not losing some of the water you take in through the diuretic properties of caffeine.

Overall, the drinks people turn to are loaded with sugar and caffeine, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis. The median coffee drink these adults had contained 121 milligrams of caffeine! To compare, one can of Red Bull has 80 milligrams.

Soda consumption is also very high, and in addition to the caffeine they contain comes sugar. On average, the adults polled were getting 26 grams of sugar from soda, a gram more than the daily World Health Organization recommendation for adults.

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