According to new research out of Harvard, about one in every 100 deaths from obesity-related diseases is caused by drinking sugary beverages. While the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, the findings point to an alarming conclusion that has the American Beverage Association up in arms.
The researchers premise is simple: When people drink too many sugary beverages (e.g. soda, gatorade, juice, etc), they tend to put on extra weight. These added pounds then increase the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many other obesity-related conditions, ultimately leading to earlier mortality.
The research was presented this week at an American Heart Association conference. In a statement released in response to the study, the American Beverage Association called it “more sensationalism than science.”
Among the world’s 35 largest countries, Mexico had the highest death rates from sugary drinks, with the United States ranking third. The researchers say it is not a problem unique to wealthy nations, and that in fact almost three-quarters of the deaths caused by sugary drinks were in low and middle income countries.
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Researchers at Harvard wanted to find out how often people around the globe drank sugar-sweetened beverages and how that affected their risk of death. They looked at 114 national dietary surveys covering more than 60% of the world’s population. They also used evidence from studies published in medical journals that discussed sugary drinks and other dietary habits. Their data was included in the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, which looks at the health and mortality of populations across the world.
They spent several years gathering and combing through data. They looked at all kinds of factors that can affect our weight such as TV watching, changes in physical activity levels, smoking and the consumption of all kinds of food and drink. When the researchers controlled for these factors, they were able to determine what percentage of deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer were linked to sugary drinks.
Scientists found that more people died from diabetes, heart disease and cancer in parts of the world where consumption of sugary drinks is high.
Of the nine world regions in 2010, Latin America and the Caribbean had the most diabetes deaths linked to sugary drinks with 38,000. East and Central Eurasia had the most cardiovascular deaths at 11,000.
In the United States, sugary drinks were linked to the deaths of 25,000 people from diabetes and other obesity-related diseases. As in many other countries, the death rates were highest in young adults under age 45, with one in 10 obesity-related deaths associated with sugary beverages.