Sodas, fruit drinks and other sugary beverages may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide from diabetes, heart disease and cancers, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found.
“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,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study from Tufts University in Boston.
In the first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages, researchers estimated deaths and disabilities from diabetes, heart disease and cancers in 2010.
In this analysis, sugar sweetened beverages were defined as any sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, sweetened iced teas, or homemade sugary drinks such as frescas, that contained at least 50 kcal per 8 ounces serving. 100 per cent fruit juice was excluded.
Estimates of consumption were made from 62 dietary surveys including 611,971 individuals conducted between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries, along with data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries and other information.
Based on meta-analyses of other published evidence on health harms of sugar-sweetened beverages, researchers calculated the direct impact on diabetes and obesity-related effects on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
In 2010, the researchers estimate that sugar-sweetened beverages consumption may have been responsible for approximately 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 6,450 deaths from cancer.
“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,” Mozaffarian said.
The impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied greatly between populations. At the extremes, the estimated percentage of deaths was less than 1 per cent in Japanese over 65 years old, but 30 per cent in Mexican adults younger than 45.
Of the 20 most populous countries, Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the US ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).
About 76 per cent of the estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths occurred in low- or middle-income countries.
“Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world,” said Gitanjali Singh, lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at the Friedman School at Tufts.
Overall, in younger adults, the per cent of chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages was higher than the per cent in older adults.
The study was published in the journal Circulation.