In addition to the traditional methods used to calculate the daily calorie intake from food, health-conscious individuals will soon be able to assess their beverage intake too using the Healthy Beverage Index (HBI). A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics by a team of researchers at the Virginia Tech describes a tool that could “more accurately” assess and evaluate the dietary intake of fluids. The researchers linked the presence of high HBI to greater C-reactive protein (CRP) in men, improved lipid profile and decreased risk of hypertension.

The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend people replace sugary drinks with water; however, no assessment tool was available to evaluate the quality of the beverage intake.

"A Healthy Beverage Index, similar to the Healthy Eating Index, could be used to evaluate overall beverage intake quality and to determine if improvements in beverage intake patterns are associated with improvements in health," lead researcher Kiyah J. Duffey said in a statement.

“A great deal of attention has been directed at sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake, and a broader focus beyond just SSBs is needed."

HBI scores 10 items for total energy gained, actual fluid requirement and recommended dietary limits for each of the beverage subgroups, including alcohol, fruit juice and low-fat milk. A few components on the HBI were weighted more heavily because of their health benefits. For example, water intake was weighted more heavily while fruit juice was kept on the light side.

Using the dietary data for the people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the researchers calculated the HBIs. The resulting scores were evaluated against several cardiometabolic risks, including hypertension, cholesterol, high fasting insulin and glucose, obesity and high CRP.

The greater the HBI score, the greater was adherence to beverage guidelines. Upon analysis of the results, the researchers found people with greater HBIs has lower cardiometablic risks. The researchers said they hope the technique is used to develop a rapid assessment tool that can be used to change the eating behavior based on the calculated beverage consumption.