The United States has a Healthy Eating Index to meet federal dietary guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so the appropriate next step would seem to be the creation of a Healthy Beverage Index.
In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nutrition researchers from Virginia Tech propose adding a Healthy Beverage Index (HBI) to reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke in adults.
The study — conducted by Kiyah J. Duffey and Brenda M. Davy — surveyed 16,000 adults using a 10-item scoring index to measure total energy from beverages, total fluid requirements, and recommended limits for beverage subgroups, such as low-fat milk and fruit juice. Better-for-you beverages, such as water, accounted for at least 20 percent of fluid intake while others, such as fruit juices, were scored lower.
As Duffey and Davy state in the study, "A great deal of attention has been directed at sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake, and a broader focus beyond just SSBs is needed."
The items on the HBI received scores ranging from zero to 100. The study notes that participants with higher scores had a healthier beverage intake and a lower risk for cardiometabolic complications in the long run.
Duffey and Davy conclude that higher HBI scores also mean better lipid files and lower risk for hypertension. They said: “These preliminary results suggest that the HBI could be a valuable tool to evaluate overall beverage intake quality in adults. More research is needed to understand whether improvements in beverage quality and, thus, HBI score, are associated with beneficial changes in health.”