A new study presented this week at an American Heart Association conference in New Orleans linked consumption of sugary drinks to about 180,000 deaths around the world, including 25,000 deaths in the U.S., in 2010.
The research, led by Gitanjali M. Singh, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, found that sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
Using data collected as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, the researchers tied intake of soft drinks and other sugary beverages to 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases and 6,000 cancer deaths.
Singh told HealthDay that their findings point to a need for policies that curb people’s sugary drink intake. But banning the sale of large sodas like the proposed measure in New York is not the only solution to the problem. She said other effective strategies may include taxing sugar-added drinks or limiting advertising of the beverages to children.
“Because we were focused on deaths due to chronic diseases, our study focused on adults,” Singh said in a news release. “Future research should assess the amount of sugary beverage consumption in children across the world and how this affects their current and future health.”
In response to the study, the American Beverage Association (ABA) issued a statement on Tuesday, saying the study “is more about sensationalism than science.”
“In no way does it 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 ABA added. “The researchers make a huge leap when they illogically and wrongly 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.”
But while Singh agrees that there are several factors that could increase people’s risk of developing heart disease, cancer or other chronic conditions, it is still possible to estimate the number of deaths attributable to consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly in large amount.