Regular soda consumption significantly increases a person's risk of obesity, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA).

"We drink soda like water," said Harold Goldstein of the Center for Public Health Advocacy, which also took part in the study. "But unlike water, soda serves up a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving."

Researchers interviewed 40,000 adults on their beverage consumption habits, finding that adults who drank one sugary beverage per day were 27 percent more likely to be classified as overweight than those who drank sugary beverages less frequently.

Drinking one soda per day involves the consumption of 39 pounds of sugar per year.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, 15.5 percent of adults, 56 percent of teenagers, and 41 percent of children under the age of 12 in Santa Cruz County, Calif., consume one soda per day. The figures on children's consumption were obtained from their parents.

An estimated 64 percent of adults in the city of Pajaro Valley are overweight or obese. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District says that 39 percent of its seventh graders are already overweight or at risk of being overweight.

Health advocates are acting on levels from the local to national to limit the damage done by soda and other sugary beverages. Many schools have banned sugary drinks from their campuses, but Watsonville High School Principal Murry Schekman admits that it is easy for students to get around this restriction by purchasing the beverages off campus.

"We need to provide a steady stream of information to students and families so they can very much understand the real dangers of sugar-sweetened products," Schekman said.

On the city, state and national levels, there are also campaigns to impose a tax on soda. And the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance program recently banned the use of its funds to purchase juice for infants.

"By feeding infants breastmilk and water only, there is less opportunity to develop an early taste for sweetened beverages," said WIC's Santa Cruz County program director, Cathy Cavanaugh.