Chicago Nimesh Desai drinks a couple of sugary sodas every day and makes no apologies about it.
"Soda, juice, Gatorade - it has to have some taste. I know I shouldn't," said the 32-year-old information technology consultant, sipping Pepsi at lunch Monday in Chicago. "But hey, cheers."
Like Desai, nearly 50 percent of Americans ages 4 and up drink sugary beverages - soft drinks, sweetened fruit juices or presweetened iced teas - on any given day, according to a report released Monday.
Using data from a large federal study, the report found that Americans drink nearly a fourth of their total calories each day, many of them in the form of soft drinks. Drinking sugary beverages rather than milk was linked with obesity, the study showed.
Although the report was paid for by the Milk Processors Board, a private industry group, the findings are similar to those found in other studies linking the consumption of sugary drinks and being overweight.
A study published in the journal Obesity Research by Harvard Medical School in 2004, for example, found that boys and girls ages 9 to 17 years who regularly drank regular soda were more likely to gain weight than the peers who did not consume sugary carbonated drinks.
While sodas themselves are filled with calorie-laden sweeteners - one can of Coke, for example, contains about the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar - the larger issue is that most people do not compensate for drinking those liquid calories by eating less.
Whether it's 100 percent organic orange juice, a Mountain Dew, or a Venti Mocha Latte from Starbucks, liquid calories simply do not provide the same satiety as solid foods, experts say.
"The point is that you are drinking your calories," said Richard Mettes, a professor of food and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. "Beverages elicit a very weak response" in terms of feeling full, he added.
The reasons are complex and likely a combination of physical, hormonal and psychological factors, Mettes said. Soup, for instance, while also a fluid, is more satiating than a sweetened beverage - evidence that perhaps it has to do with how people perceive beverages as opposed to meals, he added.
Whatever the reason, the facts show Americans are hooked on sugary drinks. According to the American Beverage Association, the average American drinks nearly 54 gallons of soft drinks each year. That translates to a little more than a gallon a week.