A study out of Harvard asserts sugar-laden beverages such as soda and sports drinks are to blame for more than 180,000 deaths worldwide each year. The research substantiating these claims was presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association in New Orleans.
These cloyingly sweet drinks have been linked to nearly 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 4,000 to 6,000 deaths from cancer, and about 45,000 deaths from heart disease and stroke. The majority of deaths occurred among those in middle to low-income countries.
To clarify, study findings did not prove that sugary drinks kill people. They only demonstrated a correlation between high consumption and deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Gitanjali Singh, PhD, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, stated 25,000 of those deaths were here in the US in 2010 based on their research.
The Harvard researchers had initially scrubbed data from a 2010 Global Burden of Diseases study, which looked at the health and mortality of populations across the world, on the consumption levels of sugar-sweetened drinks and instead broadened the research to measure global intake. The results revealed that geography may have an impact on how sugary drinks affect certain populations.
Statistically Cuban males under the age of 45 were the highest offenders, gulping down an average of five servings of sugary beverages per day.
Among the world’s 35 largest countries, Mexico had the highest death rates from sugary drinks. Bangladesh had the lowest. The United States ranked third.
Researchers at Harvard wanted to find out how often people around the globe drank sugar-sweetened beverages and how that affected their risk of death. Study data was drawn from 114 national nutrition surveys from around the world. They were used to gauge how high people’s sugary drink intake was per country. Estimated effects on obesity levels were calculated. The data was then used to assess how obesity influences risk of heart disease; type 2 diabetes; and breast, colon and pancreatic cancers. They also used evidence from studies published in medical journals that discussed sugary drinks and other dietary habits.
The need for policies to curb the intake of sugary drinks was addressed on Tuesday. The American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 450 calories per week from sugar-sweetened beverages.
As seen recently, anti-soda campaigns are difficult to promote and sustain support for as both beverage companies and consumers are resistant. New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial limitation on sodas and other sugary beverages, requiring them to be less than 16 ounces, has been in the media spotlight. The measure was struck down in court before it was scheduled to go into effect.
The American Beverage Association (ABA), who challenged the law, said the judge’s ruling, “provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban.”
Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, addressed that chronic diseases are usually the result of several factors and not just an intake of excess sugar. Soda consumption is typically combined with other unhealthy dietary options and behaviors. Sandon was not involved in the Harvard research.
A statement made Tuesday by the American Beverage Association (ABA) accused the study of being more about sensationalism and less about science.
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