A new study projected some hard numbers for what many health specialists have suspected in the past –that sugary drinks such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola are responsible for the premature death of almost 200,000 people per year worldwide.
According to researchers from Tufts University, sugar-loaded drinks such as sweetened sodas, iced teas, sports or energy drinks and fruit drinks which contain a minimum of 50 kcal per 8oz serving are responsible for the death of thousands of people. The findings, which were first presented at a scientific meeting two years ago and then published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal show the consumption of sugary drinks can lead to death from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., senior author of the study, cardiologist, epidemiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Boston’s Tufts University emphasized that substantially reducing or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from people’s diet should be “a global priority.”
The research is based on an analysis of country-specific dietary habits and causes of death in 51 countries between 1980 and 2010 and on information regarding the availability of sugar in 187 countries. Investigators deduced that in 2010 alone, the consumption of sugary drinks may have been responsible for roughly 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and almost 6,500 deaths from cancer.
In July 2015, researchers at University of Cambridge found some connections between type 2 diabetes and the consumption of sugary beverages. Although the study failed to show causation, the authors believe the correlation should be enough to convince people to change their sugar habits. The team discovered that people who drank one sugary beverage a day had an 18 per cent increased risk of developing diabetes over a ten-year period, compared to those who did not consume the sugary drinks.
Dr Mozaffarian indicated that some population dietary changes “can be challenging” due to costs, storage, agriculture and other complexities and argued that reducing the consumption of sugary drinks can save tens of thousands of deaths annually. The study’s senior author also mentioned that sugar-sweetened beverages’ impact varies greatly between populations and discovered that Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugary drinks with roughly 405 deaths per million adults. The United States ranked second with approximately 125 deaths per million adults, while the estimated percentage of deaths in Japanese over 65 years old was less than one per cent.
Famous chef Jamie Oliver also warned that sugary foods and drinks may cause a public health crisis similar to smoking, which is why they should be taxed in the same way as tobacco. He told Daily Mail in early 2015 that “sugar’s definitely the next evil” and praised France’s decision to impose a tax on sugary drinks.
Still, not everyone agrees that sugary drinks were responsible for the large number of deaths presented in the study. The American Beverage Association said in a statement that the study does not show that drinking sugary beverages leads to chronic diseases. Furthermore, the authors themselves admitted they are “at best estimating effects” of the consumption of sugary drinks. Dr Mozaffarian told Live Science that the connection between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity is well established.
Gavin Partington of the British Soft Drinks Association issued a statement in Newsweek claiming that researchers wrongly and illogically took beverage intake calculations from around the world and alleged those drinks are the cause of death.