Reduce sugar content in soft drinks, and save lives
A study out of Australia has recently found 155,000 premature deaths could be avoided by simply reducing the amount of added sugars in sugary drinks.1
It could also contribute to a greater number of years living a healthier and better quality of life, and would save the health care system a truckload.
The study looked at 3 scenarios for reducing sugar amounts in sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB):
- 5% mandatory reduction in sugar content
- 30% mandatory reduction in sugar content
- Capping sizes of sugary drinks to a 375ml single serve.
Each scenario was modelled against potential lifetime benefits and health care cost savings, with the 30% reduction in sugar content the most significant, averting at least 150,000 premature deaths from heart disease, various cancers, and about 47,000 from type 2 diabetes alone.
In addition, the study found:
- 5% mandatory reduction would result in an extra 144,621 healthy life years and health savings of $1.5 billion
- 30% mandatory reduction would result in an extra 822,835 extra healthy life years and health savings of $8 billion
- Capping the size of a single serve drink to 375 ml would result in an extra 73,883 healthy life years and health savings of $750.8 million.2
“There is overwhelming need to reduce the amount of sugar in these drinks and we have shown that not only will it benefit the lives of millions of Australians, it will also save the government and the tax payers many hundreds of millions of dollars too,” said study co-author Michelle Crino.
To have a significant impact, we require the government to legislate for mandatory reformulations, ensuring the reductions cover all sugary drinks, including soft drinks, flavoured waters, flavoured milks, and flavoured iced teas, sports/electrolyte drinks, and cordials.
Industry will need to come on board as well.
“We know that sugary drinks have no health benefits whatsoever,” said study co-author Professor Bruce Neal. “But what we now have before us in black and white are the sheer numbers of lives that can be saved if industry made just moderate changes to the drinks it sells.
“This isn’t about putting the sugary drink industry out of business, it’s about corporate responsibility. Industry could implement these changes within 12 months if it chose to. And the effects would be immediate and profound – thousands living healthier lives, free of the symptoms of obesity and tooth decay, and at much reduced risks of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.”
The benefits are clear, so let’s hope government and industry take heed start making some changes!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)
- Crino, M, Mantilla Herrera, AM, Ananthapavan, J, Wu, JY, Neal, B, Yong Yi, L, Miaobing, Z, Lal, A, & Sacks, G 2017, ‘Modelled Cost-Effectiveness of a Package Size Cap and a Kilojoule Reduction Intervention to Reduce Energy Intake from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Australia’, Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 9, pp. 1-17.
- Timms, J 2017, Study spells out huge health benefits by cutting back the sugar in sugary drinks, media release, 15 October 2017, The George Institute for Global Health, viewed 31 October 2017, <https://www.georgeinstitute.org.au/media-releases/study-spells-out-huge-health-benefits-by-cutting-back-the-sugar-in-sugary-drinks>