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Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Claim Lives Worldwide

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Claim Lives Worldwide

  • Singh GM, Michal R, Khatibzadeh S, Lim S, Ezzati M, Mozaffarian, on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE). Estimated global, regional, and national disease burden related to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in 2010. Published online before print. June 29, 2015. doi: 10.1161/ CIRCULATIONAHA.114.010636
  • US consumption of sugary drinks has steadily and significantly increased over the past 30 years; ~ 50% of the population drinks the beverages every day.(1) Ref 1 details, here.
  • 2010: American Heart Association recommended goal of no more than 450 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) per week—or less than 3 12-oz cans of cola.(2) 2011: CDC study found men consume an average of 178 calories from SSB daily and women consume around 103 calories from SSB each day.(1) Ref 2 details, here.
  • Research team from Tufts University published a study online in Circulation that estimated annual rates of global deaths and disabilities caused by SSB consumption. Time frame: 1980-2010 sugary drink consumption data. 62 dietary surveys, 612,000 people, 51 countries; data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries also collected.
  • What does a sugar sweetened beverage look like? Sugar sweetened soda; sports/energy drinks; fruit drinks; sweetened ice teas; homemade sugary drinks, such as frescas (popular in Latin American and Caribbean countries). Excluded 100% fruit juice.
  • 184,000 deaths per year attributable to SSBs: Diabetes 133,000; cardiovascular disease 45,000; cancer 6450. Plus: 8.5 million disability-adjusted life-years worldwide
  • Where do the majority of SSB-related deaths oocur? Middle-income countries 70.9%; high-income countries 24.1%; low-income countries 5%. Highest proportional death rate among Mexicans, age 65 (1%).
  • Among the 20 most populous countries, rate of SSB-related death was highest in Mexico (405 deaths/1 million) in all age-sex groups, followed by the United States (~125 deaths/1 million adults), followed by Indonesia and Brazil. Among 20 countries with highest SSB-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin America and the Caribbean across all age and sex subgroups. Homemade sugary fruit drinks called “frescas” are extremely popular in these countries.
  • Author’s Comments: Proportional mortality linked to SSB “is remarkably high among younger adults, exceeding 1 in 10 of all diabetes- and obesity-related deaths in nearly every region of the world. Younger adults also constitute the largest proportion of the workforce in most countries, producing tremendous economic losses related to SSB intakes in these age groups.” Jane Chiang, MD, senior vice president of medical affairs and community information at the American Diabetes Association.
  • Conversations about diet should take place at every contact with a health care professional; pediatricians in particular should be talking to their patients—and their parents. Those conversations with patients should happen at every visit and should be prioritized at the same level as, if not higher than, questions about smoking, he says, noting, “Twenty percent of people smoke, but everybody eats.” Senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, Dr PH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the United States, the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), including the full range of soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and vitamin water drinks, increased from 3.9% of calories in the late 1970s to 9.2% in 2001—a 3-fold increase.

In 2009, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement in which it identified SSBs as the primary source of added sugars in the American diet. While it has long been believed that SSBs contribute in no small part to the obesity epidemic, only recently have epidemiologic studies substantiated the relationship between SSB intake, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular risk.

The study summarized in the slides above, by researchers at Tufts University, goes one step further and estimates the number of deaths worldwide in 2010 from SSB-related disease. 


1. Ogden CL, Kit BK, Carroll MD, Park S. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics Consumption of Sugar Drinks in the United States, 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief No. 71; August 2011. DHHS Publication No. (PHS) 2011–1209.

2. Lloyd-Jones DM, Hong Y, Labarthe D, et al. Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction: The American Heart Association’s strategic impact goal through 2020 and beyond. Circulation 121(4):586–613.

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