Healthy Beverage Initiative

Salud, L’Chaim, Kanpai! Here’s to your health!

Healthy Beverage Initiative from UCSF Living Well on Vimeo.

UCSF’s mission of advancing health worldwide begins right here on our campus. In support of our mission and our commitment to the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, students, patients and visitors, UCSF promotes healthier beverage options.

UCSF only sells zero-calorie beverages or non-sweetened drinks with nutritional value, such as milk and 100% juice in its onsite eateries, including cafeterias, vending machines and retail locations.


1. What is a sugar-sweetened beverage?
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) include all sodas, fruit drinks, sport drinks, low-calorie drinks and other beverages that contain added caloric sweeteners.
a.) Sports drinks include all beverages marked for rehydration for athletes.
b.) Fruit drinks include all fruit drinks, fruit juices and fruit nectars with added sugar.
c.) Sodas include all carbonated beverages with added sugar.
d.) Other SSBs include sweetened tea, rice drinks, bean beverages, sugar cane beverages, flavored milks, horchata, etc.

2. What beverages are sold at UCSF?
Drinks that are sold at UCSF include water, sparkling water, 100% fruit juice, diet soda, diet iced tea, low fat and skim milk, unsweetened tea and coffee.

3. Why did UCSF implement a Healthy Beverage Initiative?
UCSF is dedicated to advancing health worldwide and is committed to supporting the health of faculty, staff, students, patients, visitors and community.

UCSF is a renowned health organization and a global leader in research on the harmful effects of sugar overconsumption. Our own faculty members have shown that sugar consumption, at levels consumed by the average American, is a major risk factor in diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. Health scientists at UCSF developed SugarScience, a national evidence-based initiative about sugar’s impact on health.

4. How does this initiative benefit the health of faculty, staff, students, patients and visitors?
As a health sciences university and medical center, UCSF believes that the products it sells should contribute to the health of its faculty, staff, students, patients and visitors. We know from research in behavioral economics and public health that people tend to make food and drink choices based on convenience and accessibility. The best way to support individual health is to create a healthy food environment. A healthy food environment makes healthy choices the easy choices while asking people to make extra effort if they want an unhealthy choice.

5. How many other hospitals have done this?
A number of other hospitals around the country have also stopped selling sugar-sweetened beverages. These include Cleveland Clinic, Seattle Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan Health System, University of Wisconsin Health System, Baylor Health Care System, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Providence Hospital System.

6. Why soda and not candy or fried foods?
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet and provide no nutritional value. The average American gets 36% of the added sugar they consume from sugary drinks, and consumes 45 gallons of sugary drinks per year.

7. Why shouldn’t we focus on education so people can just make the right choices?
Most people know that they shouldn’t consume a lot of sugary drinks but, when they are readily available and habit-forming, they can be very difficult to resist. We know from research that health education alone—in the absence of environmental change—does not produce lasting changes in health behaviors.

8. How do sugar-sweetened beverages affect health?
Overconsumption of added sugar is linked to many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and tooth decay. SugarScience states that drinking just one 12-oz can of soda per day can increase the risk of dying from heart disease by nearly one-third.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are of special concern because unlike foods that contain sugar, sugary drinks don’t contain any fiber.  This means that blood sugar rises quickly, often delivering more sugar than the body’s vital organs can handle.

Additionally, bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar from sweetened beverages. These bacteria then produce acids that eat away at the protective coating around teeth, causing tooth decay.

9. Why is diet soda still sold?
While there is a substantial amount of research about the negative effects of overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, there is not enough research about artificial sweeteners.  The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) consider artificial sweeteners, like those found in diet sodas, to be safe.

10. Can I bring sugar-sweetened beverages with me to UCSF?
Yes, this initiative only pertains to beverages being sold at UCSF. Employees, students, patients, and visitors are free to bring beverages of their choosing to UCSF. However, we hope this initiative encourages healthier decisions.

11. Where can I find healthy food and beverage choices at UCSF?
UCSF eateries sell zero-calorie drinks and un-sweetened drinks with nutritional value, such as milk and 100% juice. UCSF’s Smart Choice program has developed standards to designate healthy menu items, including beverages, at retail food outlets across UCSF. These standards were developed after careful review of the latest research, national healthy eating guidelines, and comparable programs. You can read more about the Smart Choice program and find out about participating vendors here.


Want to learn more about the health effects of sugar? is the authoritative source for evidence-based, scientific information about sugar and its impact on health.

Watch experts from SugarScience speak about the health effects of sugar at a Living Well at UCSF Wellness Expo on January 14, 2015.