Sugary drinks kill up to 184,000 each year, says study

Sugary drinks are killing up to 184,000 people around the world each year, according to a comprehensive new study of the global deaths attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) released today.

Medical experts behind the report recommend that the number of sugary drinks people consume should be drastically reduced or cut out of people's diets completely to prevent them from causing deadly conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The study, published in the American Heart Association's Circulation journal, has been conducted by an international team of medical experts from Harvard, Tufts and Washington universities in the US and Imperial College London and has been ongoing since 1980.

The findings draw upon 62 dietary surveys which were distributed to more than 611,000 people from 51 different countries across the world. Drinks found to be associated with SSB-related deaths are fizzy drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened iced teas, sports/energy drinks and homemade sugary drinks. Pure juices were not included in the report.

Researchers calculated the number of deaths from diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, which they believe are attributable to the consumption of sugary drinks, which accelerated the conditions.

They found that the most common cause of death linked to sugary drink consumption was diabetes, estimated at around 133,000 per year globally. The study also attributed 45,000 deaths a year from heart disease to such beverages, as well as 6,450 deaths caused by various cancers.

The United States has the highest number of deaths attributed to the drinks at 25,347 per year. For Britain, the figure was 1,316, with an estimated mortality rate of 30.5 per million adults. The report also claims that about 30% of adult deaths under the age of 45 in the Latin American country can be attributed to sugary drinks.

Commenting on the reports findings in the Independent, Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston said: "Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet."

Responding to the new report, Gavin Partington, BSDA director general of the British Soft Drink Association (BSDA) told Newsweek: "In no way does this study show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer."

"In fact, the researchers provide no evidence 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," he said.

According to government National Diet and Nutrition Survey data published in 2014, soft drinks only account for 3% of calories in the average UK diet. The soft drink industry was estimated to be worth £15bn (€21bn) in 2013, according to a new report published by the BDSA.