A morbid report has recently been published offering detailed information on the global impact of sugar-sweetened beverages. Researchers’ focus was on the estimated number of cases where sugary drinks caused disabilities and deaths, mostly due to diabetes, cancers, and heart disease in 2010.
Senior author Gitanjali Singh, an assistant professor at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Tufts University, pointed out the fact that eight of the 20 countries with the highest number of deaths related to sweetened beverages were located in Latin America and the Caribbean – showing just how high the intake is in this part of the world.
Mexico occupied the infamous number one spot on the list, attributed an estimated 24,000 total deaths due to sugar-sweetened beverages. Unsurprisingly, the United States came in a close second, having a lower rate (126 deaths per million adults compared to 405 deaths per million adults in Mexico), but a higher estimated total deaths of 25,000.
For a drink to be considered in the category of sugar-sweetened beverages it has to contain at least 50 kcal per 8oz serving; this included fruit sodas, sweetened iced teas, energy/sports drinks, or homemade sugary drinks (who doesn’t love a delicious fresca?).
This is the first international study to centralize such massive data; the estimates are the results of combining 62 dietary surveys conducted between 1980 and 2010, where around 612,000 people from 51 countries took part.
Even though the impact of sweetened beverages varies greatly from one country to another, the total death toll each year is shocking. Researchers estimate that consuming such drinks in excess has led to roughly 133,000 deaths related to diabetes, 45,000 deaths to cardiovascular disease, and 6,450 deaths to cancer. And these numbers are estimated for the year of 2010 alone.
In order to illustrate the difference, researchers pointed to the fact that deaths of Japanese over 65-years-old covered less than one percent of the global death toll, while Mexican adults younger than 45 accounted for 30 percent of deaths.
The harsh reality is that around 76 percent of the international death toll related to sweetened beverages happens in countries ranging from middle- to low -income. What’s the most important is monitoring the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on the younger population, because they make up the larger sector of the workforce in the majority of countries.
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