Researchers from Tufts University, Boston, have published a paper in the journal Circulation which suggests that up to 184,000 deaths each year worldwide can be attributed to sugary drinks consumption.
In what is the first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages, estimates of consumption were made from 62 dietary surveys including 611,971 individuals conducted between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries, along with sugar data across 187 countries. Allowing for multiple extraneous factors, the researchers’ meta-analyses estimated the effect of these beverages and their direct impact on diabetes and obesity-related effects on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Corresponding to specific diseases, the researchers estimated that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may have been responsible for approximately 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 deaths from cancer.
Senior author of the study, Dariush Mozaffarian, explained: “Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet.
“Some population dietary changes, such as increasing fruits and vegetables, can be challenging due to agriculture, costs, storage, and other complexities. This is not complicated. There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year.”
The team found that the impact of these beverages varied greatly between populations. Of the 20 most populous countries, for example, Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened drinks, by far, with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults. The US came 2nd with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults.
Gitanjali Singh, lead author of the study, pointed out: “Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin American and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world.”
Distressingly, the percent of chronic disease attributable to these beverages was higher in younger adults than older ones. Singh added: “The health impact of sugar-sweetened beverage intake on the young is important because younger adults form a large sector of the workforce in many countries, so that economic impact of sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths and disability in this age group can be significant.
“It also raises concerns about the future. If these young people continue to consume high levels as they age, the effects of high consumption will be compounded by the effects of aging, leading to even high death and disability rates from heart disease and diabetes than we are seeing now.”