Sugary Drinks Kill Up to 184,000 Each Year, Study Says

Fizzy drinks cause deaths globally
Questions are mounting about the health implications of all carbonated drinks (not just the ones pictured). A study has claimed a connection between low-calorie sweeteners and reduced fertility rates. Sam Hodgson/Reuters

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 Tuesday, June 30.

The medical experts behind the report recommend that people should drastically reduce the number of sugary drinks they consume — or cut the drinks out of their diet completely — in order to lower the risk of developing deadly conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The study, published in the American Heart Association's Circulation journal, was conducted by an international team of researchers from Harvard University, Tufts University and Washington University in St. Louis, along with England's 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 sodas, fruit drinks, sweetened iced teas, sports/energy drinks and homemade sugary drinks. Pure juices were not included in the report.

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. The report also claims that about 30 percent of adult deaths under the age of 45 in the Latin American country can be attributed to sugary drinks.

Commenting on the 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."

Not everyone agrees. 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.

The soft drink market has plummeted in recent years. According to industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp., sales of soda in the U.S. have declined by 14 percent since 2004.