Reducing sugar in packaged foods, beverages could prevent 500,000 deaths, new US study finds

US – Reducing sugar in packaged foods and beverages could help US citizens avoid lifestyles diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular-related complications, a recent study published in Circulation has revealed. 

According to the study, cutting 20% of sugar from packaged foods and 40% from beverages could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events such as strokes, heart attacks and cardiac arrests. 

Additionally, the study revealed that 490,000 cardiovascular deaths and 750 diabetes cases could be avoided in the United States over the lifetime of the current adult population if the above cuts were implemented.  

“We hope that this study will help push the reformulation initiative forward in the next few years,” said Siyi Shangguan, MD, lead author and attending physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

 “Reducing the sugar content of commercially prepared foods and beverages will have a larger impact on the health of Americans than other initiatives to cut sugar, such as imposing a sugar tax, labeling added sugar content, or banning sugary drinks in schools.” 

The recent research builds on a model created by a team US researcher to simulate and quantify the health, economic and equity impacts of a sugar-reduction policy proposed by the US National Salt and Sugar Initiative, which released targets for packaged foods and beverages in 15 categories in 2018. 

The model incorporated national demographic and dietary data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) across three cycles (2011-16), added sugar-related diseases from meta-analyses, and policy costs and health-related costs.  

 A simulated nationally representative US population was created and followed until age 100 or death, with 2019 as the intervention’s start. 

The United States, according to the study’s model, could save US$4.28 billion in total net health care costs 10 years after the sugar-reduction policy went into place and US$118.04 million over the lifetime of the current population, or those of the ages 35 to 79. 

The sugar-reduction policy could become cost-effective at six years with the greatest estimated health gains expected to come from Black and Hispanic adults as well as Americans with lower income and less education. 

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“The NSSRI policy is by far the most carefully designed and comprehensive, yet achievable, sugar-reformulation initiative in the world,” Dr. Shangguan said. 

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, co-senior author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University believes that its time the United States implemented the policy given its major health improvements that it is expected to benefit the nation.  

As the USA contemplates sugar reduction, the European beverages industry is moving ahead with its strategy to make its beverages healthier.  

According to the Union of European Soft Drinks Associations (UNESDA), the industry is on track to reducing the average content of added sugars in our beverages by another 10% before the end of 2025. 

This is in addition to providing soft drinking in smaller packages to reduce consumption in addition to limiting advertising targeting the young population. 

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