Background: Few previous studies investigated consumption distributions of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) over time and individual-level associations in Asia despite the recent interest in SSBs regarding obesity control. This study aimed to provide recent evidence on beverage consumption trends from 2001 to 2009 for overall and subtypes of SSBs and for milk as a comparable healthy beverage in South Korea, as well as associations with individual-level socioeconomic status (SES). Methods: The Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2001 to 2009 were used. Consumption prevalence and average caloric intake by SSB type were examined. Associations of SES with consumption were assessed in a multivariate logistic regression model (consumption prevalence) and in a multivariate two-part regression model (overall caloric intake adjusting for consumption probability). Results: SSB consumption prevalence increased to 38%, 69%, 70%, and 50% by 2009 up from 31%, 66%, 63%, and 32% in 2001 among adolescents, young adults, adults, and the elderly, respectively. Miscellaneous SSBs (sports/energy drinks, coffee/tea products, flavored milk, and others) were the most prevalent and their prevalence increased among adults (from 62% to 69%) and the elderly (from 30% to 47%) between 2001 and 2009. Adolescents consumed the most calories from miscellaneous SSBs among all beverage types although its prevalence was lower than regular soda and milk in both 2001 and 2009. Women (top- income group only) and men in higher income groups showed higher odds of consuming total SSBs (OR = 1.18-1.25), soda (OR = 1.18, men only), fruit drinks (OR = 1.18, the top-income only for both genders), and miscellaneous SSBs (OR = 1.1-1.2). Men with higher-education showed higher odds of total SSB consumption (OR = 1.14-1.20), and all subtypes of SSBs (OR = 1.18, 1.29, 1.19 for soda, fruit drinks, and miscellaneous SSB, respectively for the top-education group only). There were statistically significant but minimal differences in the overall amount of caloric intake from SSBs by individual SES for both genders. Conclusions: South Korea is following the global nutrition transition toward greater consumption of SSBs. However, unlike other developed countries, SSB consumption prevalence was higher among high-SES individuals, particularly for fruit drinks and miscellaneous SSBs. Further research is needed to build the international evidence base.
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