Sugary drinks are killing 180,000 worldwide each year, study finds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 10:09am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2015, 11:57am


By contributing to obesity and, through that, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks appears to kill about 180,000 people worldwide each year, new research says.

Low- and middle-income countries are bearing the brunt of the death toll attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks, according to an assessment published on Monday in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation. Each year, more than 75 per cent of the world's deaths attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages occur in those poor and developing countries.

In Mexico - a country with a per capita consumption of sweetened drinks among the world's highest - about 24,000 adults' deaths in 2010 were attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. That translated into the highest death rate of the world's 20 most populous nations: 405 deaths per million adults in one year.

The United States ranked second. In 2010, there were 125 deaths per million adults, or about 25,000 deaths total.

Researchers combed through national dietary surveys that captured patterns of beverage consumption in 51 countries from 1980 to 2010. They then mined databases to discern the availability and consumption of sugar in 187 countries.

They tallied consumption of drinks - homemade and mass-produced - that deliver 50 calories or more per eight-ounce serving, and did not count 100 per cent fruit juices.

They drew from a growing number of studies to estimate the contribution of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to obesity, and of obesity to such diseases as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers of the breast, colon, oesophagus, gall bladder, kidney, pancreas and ovaries. And finally, they calculated how many deaths from those diseases might have gotten a push from consumption of those sugary drinks.

"This is not complicated," said Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tuft University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a senior author of the new research. "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."

Compounded by the effects of ageing, this generation's high rates of sugary drink consumption may push its rates of death and disability from heart disease and diabetes even higher than those seen in the current study, said co-author Gitanjali Singh, also of Friedman School.