Sugary Beverages Linked to 180,000 Deaths Worldwide

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg might be right; maybe we should be drinking fewer sodas.

New research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions showed that 180,000 deaths worldwide are linked to sugary beverages.

Studies have connected sugared drinks likes sodas to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. And recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to ban sugared drinks larger than 16 oz. in the city, but the proposal was invalidated by a judge the night before it was supposed to take effect. But while the connection between excess sugar and chronic disease is well-known, the latest research is the first to quantify deaths correlated with sugared drinks worldwide.

(MORE: Judge Blocks Ban of Big Sodas in New York City)

To reach their conclusion, the scientists analyzed data from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study and recorded how much sugar-sweetened beverages people drank, dividing up the data by age and sex. Then, they figured out how the various amount corresponded to obesity rates. Lastly, they calculated how much obesity affected diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers and determined the mortality rates from these diseases, ending up with the number of deaths that could be attributed to consuming sugary beverages by age and sex.

In 2010 in the U.S., the researchers report that 25,000 deaths were linked to sugary beverages; these drinks were associated with 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths and 6,000 cancer deaths.

“Seventy-eight percent of these deaths due to over-consuming sugary drinks were in low and middle-income countries, rather than high-income countries,” the authors said in a statement.

(MOREShould Sugar Be Regulated like Alcohol and Tobacco?)

Here’s how the deaths were distributed globally:

  • The most diabetes deaths, 38,000, related to sugary beverages occurred 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 sugary drinks, also had the highest death rate due to sugared beverages at 318 deaths per million adults.
  • Japan, had the lowest per-capita consumption of sugary drinks, and also enjoyed the lowest death rate due to the drinks at 10 deaths per million adults.

“A large number of deaths each year are caused by drinking sugary beverages. Our findings should push policy makers world-wide to make effective policies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages, such as taxation, mass-media campaigns, and reducing availability of these drinks,” says Dr. Gitanjali Singh, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Individuals should drink fewer sugary beverages and encourage their family and friends to do the same.”

The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their added sugar to no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. That’s slightly less than the amount found in a single 12 oz. can of sugared soda.