Sugary Drinks may Contribute to Almost 200,000 Deaths Worldwide each Year

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The world has developed a taste for sugary drinks, as evidenced by the significant increase in their consumption over the past four decades, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. And that’s not exactly good news; sugar-laden beverages are associated with weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Now, it seems their deservedly poor reputation is about to be tainted even further, as a new study has suggested they could be helping add an extra 184,000 adults each year to the worldwide death toll.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages,” senior study author Dariush Mozaffarian from Tufts University said in a statement. “It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet.”

The American Heart Association recommends that we don’t consume more than 6-9 teaspoons of added sugars per day, so considering the fact that an average 12-ounce can of sugar-sweetened soda contains 9 and a half teaspoons of the stuff, it’s easy to see that many of us are going way over that advised limit.

We already know that such soda-chugging habits are contributing to our expanding waistlines, but what about their impact on burdens of disease associated with body fat, or adiposity? That’s what researchers from Tufts University endeavoured to find out, focusing on deaths and disability from cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes in 2010.

For the investigation, the researchers classed sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) as any sodas, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, iced teas or homemade drinks that had been sweetened with sugar and contained at least 50 kcal, which meant that 100% fruit juice was omitted. In order to estimate how much people are consuming worldwide, the team pooled data from 62 dietary surveys conducted between 1980 and 2010, which included data from more than 610,000 individuals living in 51 countries. They also looked at sugar availability for 187 countries and disease-specific mortality and disability data.  

After taking into account the results of earlier analyses which reviewed the findings of studies into the health impacts of these drinks, the researchers were able to estimate the effects of SSB consumption on body-mass index, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and cancer.

As described in Circulation, they estimate that in 2010 SSBs could have contributed to 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 from CVDs and 6,450 from cancer. Impacts were also found to vary geographically and according to age. For example, of the countries with the largest populations, Mexico topped the charts with the highest number of estimated deaths linked with these drinks, followed by the U.S. Countries within Latin America and the Caribbean also dominated the top 20 list for the highest number of estimated deaths related to these drinks, highlighting their consumption habits.

Another worrying find was that younger adults had higher rates of chronic disease associated with these drinks than older adults, which is not only a problem for the economy, but also for the lives of these individuals as they age, as disability and death rates will likely also increase.

“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,” said Mozaffarian.

Obviously, the results of this study are estimates as they cannot prove that the drinks are attributable to the deaths. However, it’s plain to see that drinking an excess of calorific, sugary drinks is not good for your health, so consume them as a treat, rather than a part of your diet. 

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