Sugary Drinks Caused 180,000 Global Deaths

In a recent article published in TIME, Sifferlin argues that according to the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions, sugary beverages are linked to 180,000 deaths worldwide.

This is the first research to quantify the number of deaths correlated with sugary drinks worldwide, despite the fact that the connection between excess sugar and chronic disease is no recent news.

Even though correlation does not imply causation, it’s still important not to consume sugary beverages in excess, as prevention is better than cure.

More specifically, beverages like sodas contribute to a higher risk factor of heart disease, diabetes, kidney damage, and obesity.

In the U.S. in 2010, researchers found that the numbers of deaths related to sugared beverages is 25,000; these drinks were linked to 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart diseases related deaths and 6,000 cancer deaths.

In addition, the authors also found that the patterns of consumption, as well as the consumers’ preferences are different among low and middle-income countries compared to high-income countries. Scientists said, “78% of these deaths due to over consuming sugary drinks were in low and middle-income countries, rather than high-income countries”. This could be related, among other reasons, to the fact that families in high-income countries are more aware about healthier types of food, whereas in relatively lower-income countries, the primary concern is to put food on the table and there’s no much information or education-related to the ingredients consumed.

For example, the highest number of deaths related to diabetes is 38,000 and happen in Latin America and the Caribbean. East and Central Eurasia recorded the most heart disease related deaths at 11,000. Mexico, which had the highest per-capita consumption of sugared drinks, also had the highest death rate at 318 per million adults. However, Japan, which has the lowest per-capita consumption of sugary drinks, has the lowest sugary drink-related death rate at 10 deaths per million adults.

Recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to ban “super-sized” sugary beverages larger than 16 oz. However, New York Supreme Court judge Milton Tingling invalidated the ban, describing it as “arbitrary and capricious” because it doesn’t apply to all food establishments in the city and excludes other drinks that have significantly higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and/or calories, among other reasons for not passing the law.

Dr. Gitanjali Singh, co-author of the above study and postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said, "a large number of death each year is caused by drinking sugary beverages. Our findings should push policy makers worldwide to make effective policies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages, such as taxation, mass-media campaigns, and reducing availability of these drinks."

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Olga Jbeili

I hold an MSc in Development Economics and a Graduate Diploma in Economics from the University of Sussex. Most recently I was working as a research officer at Sussex uni. I previously worked at the Carnegie Endowment in Beirut where I assisted scholars in researches related to food security and land acquisitions, peak-oil and rentier economies, sovereign wealth funds, labour markets among other topics... I am also particularly interested in the political economic situation in the developing and emerging economies and how this relationship might affect growth and long-run development.

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