Fresh Calls For Action On Sugary Drinks After Study Links Them To Deaths

Sugary drinks may be linked to the deaths of 184,000 adults according to a Tufts University study, providing yet more ammunition for states and cities looking to ban the beverages.

Study co-author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy dean, defined sugary drinks as any that contained at least 50 kcal per 8oz servings. These included sports and energy drinks, sugar-sweetened sodas, sweetened iced teas, fruit drinks, and sugary drinks that could be made at home such as frescas. Those that were 100 per cent fruit juice were not included in the study.

“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,” he said.

The study looked at 62 dietary surveys taken between 1980 and 2010, from 51 different countries collected from 611,971, as well as data on availability of sugar in 187 countries along with other information.

Study researchers estimated that in 2010 sugary drinks may have been linked to 6, 450 cancer deaths, 45,000 cardiovascular disease deaths, and 133,000 deaths from diabetes.

Impact of sugar-sweetened drinks varied between populations. In Japan, it was estimated less than 1 percent of deaths in people over 65 years of age were linked to sugary drinks, but did for 30 percent of deaths in Mexican adults under 45 years of age. Mexico had the highest linked death with 405 deaths per million adults – 24,000 total deaths. The U.S.A with 125 estimated sugary drink linked deaths per million adults – 25,000 total deaths – ranked second in the world.

In a prepared statement, the American Beverage Association, a soft drink manufacturers trade group said “This study does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases and the authors themselves acknowledge that they are at best estimating effects of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption”.

“America’s beverage companies are doing their part to offer consumers the fact-based information and the beverage options they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families,” read the statement.
Although professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Liz Ruder said it was not clear if sugary drinks caused the deaths outlined in the study since it was not a randomized controlled trial, she believed the finding were correct.

She said “because the authors have employed sophisticated statistical techniques and they have rich food consumption data, I believe that these data are likely to be accurate”.