Death and disability from sugar sweetened drinks tallied

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
184,000 deaths found from sugar sweetened drinks in 2010

Consumption of sugar sweetened drinks, especially among youth, has become a major health concern. Findings published recently in the journal Circulation suggest sweetened beverages might contribute to up to 184,000 deaths or disability each year.

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Beverages included in a first global study that looked at deaths from sugary drinks in 51 countries include sweetened tea, soft drinks, home-made beverages such as frescas and fruit drinks - but not 100 percent fruit juices - and sports and energy drinks.

Eliminating sweet drinks could save lives

Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston said consumption of sodas, sweet tea and other sugary drinks could be a single dietary factor responsible for thousands of deaths each year from diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Cutting out or greatly reducing consumption of the beverages should be a global priority, Mozaffarian says.

Researchers looked at surveys conducted in 51 countries between 1980 and 2010. They also looked at availability of sugar and other information in 187 countries for comparison in order to determine the toll sweetened beverages have on population health.

Sugar in beverages was directly correlated to 133,000 deaths from diabetes in 2010, followed by 45,000 deaths from heart disease and 6,450 deaths from cancer that varied with age and demographics.

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The highest death toll attributed to the drinks was found in Mexico.

“Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world,” said Gitanjali Singh, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

The study also showed sugar sweetened beverages caused more chronic illnesses in younger adults, compared to older adults.

Singh said in a Tufts University press release: “In the U.S., for example, about 10 percent of all obesity- and diabetes-related deaths under age 45 were attributed to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. That’s a remarkably high proportion.”

Singh added aging, combined with sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will lead to even more deaths and disability from diabetes and cardiovascular disease than what is currently being seen.

A European study published in 2013 showed just one sugar sweetened drink a day can increase your risk of diabetes by 22 percent.

Singh says public policies are needed to reduce consumption of sugar sweetened beverages inside and outside of the U.S. Suggestions include taxing the drinks. Mexico is the first country to add a tax to the drinks. School and work based education is also suggested.

The researcher also points out the drinks are heavily marketed in low-income countries by athletes and musicians as something that is “desirable”, when in fact they are promoting drinks that are harmful. “Would these people promote cigarettes to kids? I doubt it, and they shouldn’t promote sugar-sweetened beverages, either, Singh said.

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Comments

As the authors themselves admit, this study attempts to estimate the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages, yet does not at all prove that intake of these products causes chronic diseases in the first place. Therefore, these ‘findings’ are sensationalistic to say the very least. As science establishes, sugar-sweetened beverages are safe, and no single food, beverage or ingredient is uniquely responsible for causing diabetes, or other complex health challenges for that matter. Let’s have real, education-based solutions to complex public health challenges. Demonizing any one product is, frankly, unproductive. -American Beverage Association
I was awaiting your comment "American Beverage Association". Could you share the nutritional value of phosphate laden drinks that can make bones porous, raise blood sugar levels to lead to insulin resistance, some with artificial coloring that is suspect for harming our health, contain empty calories and are sweetened with corn syrup that provides no reward to the brain in terms of satiety, promotes aging from sugar and probably more? How can you even, with good conscience, try to defend your products? Do you suggest people should not care that there is a link to sweetened beverages and serious health problems and instead wait for conclusive evidence. To me that seems less than brilliant. I would hesitate to call the study unproductive.