Sugary drinks linked to 25,000 U.S. deaths per year

Researchers say the deaths occurred from diabetes, heart disease, other conditions

Sugar-sweetened drinks are linked to about 25,000 deaths in the U.S. and about 180,000 deaths worldwide annually, according to a study published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

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Study details

For the study, researchers from Tufts University examined consumption of drinks that include at least 50 calories per eight-ounce serving, excluding 100% fruit juices.

They looked at several studies to estimate how sugar-sweetened drinks contributed to obesity and how obesity contributed to diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers among adults. The researchers then calculated the number of deaths from those diseases that could have been influenced by sugar-sweetened drinks.

Study findings

The study found that one out of every 100 adult deaths from an obesity-related disease is linked to sugar-sweetened drinks. According to the study, sugar-sweetened drinks each year are responsible for:

  • 133,000 diabetes deaths;
  • 45,000 cardiovascular disease deaths; and
  • 6,450 cancer deaths.

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The United States had the fourth-highest rate of sugar-sweetened drink-related deaths, with about 125 per one million adults.

Meanwhile, Mexico had the highest rate of deaths linked to sugar-sweetened drinks, with about 405 deaths per one million. About 75% of the deaths attributed to sugar-sweetened drink deaths occurred in developing countries, where obesity is increasing as incomes rise.

The report does not reflect the effect of sugar-sweetened drinks on children's health. However, report co-author Gitanjali Singh of Tuft University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science says that higher rates of consumption among younger people—coupled with the effects of aging—mean that rates of disability and death from diabetes and heart disease could increase significantly in the future.

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Debate over study

The American Beverage Association (ABA) initially dismissed the study when its abstract was first published in 2013. "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," the ABA said in a statement.

However, the study has since been peer reviewed, and the authors say they are confident in the results. "If the sugar industry's argument is that there's no correlation, that's not correct," says report co-author Dariush Mozaffarian.

Mozaffarian adds, "There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year" (Healy, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 6/29; Gebelhoff, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 6/29; ABA release, 3/19/13).

The takeaway:A new study published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation attributes 25,000 U.S. deaths per year to consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

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What are the critical components that separate successful population health managers from the pack? Members often ask us this question, and we've found that the answer often lies in the organization's approach to care management.

Population health management is not about managing one population. It’s about managing three—and each requires different goals, resources, and care models.

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