Frequently Asked Questions

What are you trying to accomplish with Live Sugarfreed?

Live Sugarfreed is taking on the epidemics of obesity and diabetes by encouraging people to drink water or other healthier beverages instead of beverages that contain sugar.

What will the campaign do?

You will see ads warning people about the health risks of sugary drinks on television, the internet, and social media. And health advocates in the region will encourage organizations to promote water instead of sugary drinks in
workplaces and with their members.

Why are you doing this in the Tri-Cities region?

Many people in the Tri-Cities region – and many people throughout the country – drink sugary drinks regularly. The Live Sugarfreed campaign is designed to help people in the Tri-Cities region avoid obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Other parts of the country have tried similar campaigns, and the Live Sugarfreed campaign may later be used in other communities.

Why focus on sugary drinks?

Sugary drinks increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Rising rates of obesity and diabetes have become a health crisis. Sugary drinks aren’t the only cause of obesity and diabetes, but they are important contributors.

What exactly do you mean by “sugary drinks”?

Sugary drinks are drinks that are sweetened with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other caloric sweeteners and that have more than 25 calories in 8 ounces. That includes regular soda, fruit-flavored drinks, so-called “energy” and “sports” drinks, sweetened blended coffee drinks, and sweet tea.

I know people who drink sugary drinks who aren’t overweight and don’t have diabetes. Aren’t obesity and diabetes just genetic?

Some people are genetically more likely to get overweight and to develop diabetes than others. But everyone has some risk for becoming overweight and many people are at risk for developing diabetes, especially if they become overweight. Nearly seven in 10 Tennesseans are overweight and one in eight has diabetes, so it is safer for everyone to cut out the sugary drinks.

How much sugar is in sugary drinks?

A 20-ounce bottle of soda has about 65 grams of sugar (240 calories), usually as high-fructose corn syrup, which is similar to (but not exactly the same as) cane sugar. A teaspoon of granulated cane sugar has about 4 grams, so that 20-ounce can of soda has the equivalent of about 16 teaspoons of sugar in it. If you had to add your own sugar to a 20-ounce cup of tea, would you add 16 teaspoons?

What about sports drinks? What about fruit drinks? Aren’t they healthy?

No. So-called “sports” drinks and drinks with fruit flavoring like lemonade or fruit punch contain plenty of added sugars. Some of these drinks have more sugar than regular soda. That amount of sugar is not healthy for you, no matter how old you are and no matter how much you exercise.

What about diet drinks?

“Diet” drinks with artificial sweeteners do not have the calories of sugary drinks, and some studies show that people who drink them gain less weight than people drinking full-sugar drinks. But the artificial sweeteners do have some effects on the body that may contribute to weight gain over the long term. If you feel you must have a sweet drink, diet drinks are better than full-sugar drinks, but it is best to just go with water or drinks without any sweeteners.

I only drink one or two sugary drinks a day. That’s Ok, isn’t it?

No, that’s not healthy. It adds up to about 68 pounds of sugar a year that you’re drinking, enough to cause you to gain weight and enough to increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

What SHOULD I drink?

Water is the best. It’s safe and healthy. It doesn’t contain anything that you don’t need. And if you drink tap water, it’s free! If you want a little something extra in your drink, try unsweetened tea, unsweetened flavored water, or seltzer water.


Our Sponsors and Partners


Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation
Mountain States Health Alliance
Wellmont Heath System

Other Partners

American Cancer Society
American Heart Association
East Tennessee State University College of Public Health
Eastman Chemical Company
Healthy Kingsport
Sullivan County Health Department
Northeast Tennessee Department of Health
Virginia Department of Health LENOWISCO District