Sugary drinks linked to 200,000 deaths each year around the world

soft drinkIt has been claimed that the consumption of sugary soft drinks could be causing almost 200,000 deaths each year around the world.

The claims emanate from Harvard researchers who used data extracted from a huge investigation into causes of global disease – the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases study, and have now been able to link 180,000 deaths a year worldwide to high-sugar fizzy drinks.

Gitanjali Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and lead author of the study presented the findings this week at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

After a painstaking five years spent putting the pieces together of a complex analysis into global fatalities, Singh and his colleagues were able to attribute sugary drinks to approximately 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 44,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 deaths from cancer during 2010.

There appeared to be a demographic division in the findings with a high proportion (78%) of the deaths occurring in the lower-to-middle income countries in comparison to wealthier nations. Being able to afford private healthcare could be a factor that contributed to this statistic.

The analysis found that Latin American and Caribbean countries had seen the most diabetes-related deaths linked to sugary drinks (38,000). In addition, East and Central Europe had the most heart-related deaths associated to sugary drinks (11,000).

From the 15 highest populated countries within the analysis, it was determined that Mexico had the highest sugary drink-associated death rate – 318 deaths per million adults. Japan was the country with the lowest sugary drink-associated death rate, at just 10 deaths for every million adults.

Sugar-sweetened drinks have been widely known to contribute weight gain and obesity. This then raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.

The U.S. study is more evidence that high-sugar, high-calorie fizzy drinks that offer no nutritional value are a danger to public health and playing a major part in the UK’s growing number of diabetes cases – described as a ‘public health emergency’ only a fortnight ago.

Gitanjali Singh released a statement about the findings of the study, commenting: “We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together. I think our findings should really impel policymakers to make effective policies to reduce sugary beverage consumption since it causes a significant number of deaths.”

However, the American Beverage Association has disputed the study, describing it as ‘more about sensationalism than science’. Releasing a statement, the group said: “It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer – the real causes of death among the studied subjects. The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease.”

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