Researchers at Harvard University say sugary drinks are contributing to an estimated 180,000 deaths around the globe annually, a startling statistic they hope will spur changes in the beverage industry.
Researchers from Harvard’s School of Public Health say sugar-laced juices, sports drinks and soda are major factors behind spiking rates of obesity and diabetes.
The study relied on data obtained from 114 national dietary surveys, representing more than 60 per cent of the world’s population. The researchers determined how changes in consumption of sugary drinks affected weight and body mass index, controlling for other factors known to weight, such as changes in physical activity levels and the consumption of other foods and drink.
They then calculated the number of deaths from weight-related heart disease, diabetes, and seven obesity-related cancers (breast, gallbladder, colorectal, kidney, pancreatic, uterine and esophageal cancer).
The researchers linked the overconsumption of sugared beverages to 44,000 deaths annually from heart disease and stroke, 133,000 deaths linked to diabetes and 6,000 cancer deaths worldwide.
“The data is clear,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, co-director of the cardiovascular epidemiology program at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Too much soda consumption is killing people.”
They found that countries in the Caribbean and Latin America saw the highest death rates from diabetes due too sugary drinks. In the United States, where two-thirds of adults and one in three children are overweight or obese, sugar-sweetened drinks were linked to 25,000 deaths in 2010.
Mozaffarian said the research could motivate policy makers to regulate the beverage industry.
“Our data really provide an impetus for policy makers to make changes when they see tens of thousands of deaths are due to this beverage consumption,” said Gitanjali Singh, of the Harvard School of Public Health.