Drinking only one can of a sugary beverage every day for a year could result in a weight gain of 15 pounds

Gulp! What you're gulping down may be killing you. Literally.

A rash of recent studies have brought to light the damage to our waistlines (not to mention, our overall health) wrought by our consumption of "junk" drinks -- both sugared and artificially sweetened beverages, from traditional carbonated sodas, to "healthy" juice drinks, to newfangled "energy" concoctions.

Junk Drinks "'You are what you drink' may be truer than 'you are what you eat,'" said Dr. Cheryle Hart, Mayo Clinic trained physician and author of several best-selling health and nutrition books including The Insulin-Resistance Diet. "Junk drinks -- sweetened beverages such as sodas, sugary waters, and sports drinks - may pose even more serious problems in terms of obesity and related health problems than junk foods."

Research at the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that drinking only one can of a sugary beverage every day for a year could result in a weight gain of 15 pounds; and also raise the risk of developing diabetes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that while subjects put on weight with excess intake of both liquid and solid foods, only a reduction in liquid calories had a significant affect on weight loss during their study's follow-up period.

Unfortunately, low-calorie beverages may not be any better. A long-term study of 3700 people showed that those who averaged three or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were more likely to have gained weight over an eight-year period than those who didn't drink these beverages.

These studies bolster the argument for favoring plain water as your first beverage of choice. If you can't stomach the taste, there are several products that add flavor without calories or harmful chemicals. Such products include enhanced sports waters such as Aqua-Hydrate and flavored or vitamin waters such as ICE Botanicals and Hint.

Bottom line: Think before you drink!

For more info: More on flavored waters by the Dallas Weight Loss Examiner, the National Weight Loss Examiner, and the Hartford Working Moms Examiner.