Sugary drink deaths, Sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to more than 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide each year, according to new research presented this week at an American Heart Association conference.
"This means about one in every 100 deaths from obesity-related diseases is caused by drinking sugary beverages," says study author Gitanjali Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Among the world's 35 largest countries, Mexico had the highest death rates from sugary drinks, and Bangladesh had the lowest, according to the study. The United States ranked third.
However, the American Beverage Association dismissed the research as "more about sensationalism than science."
When people drink too many beverages containing added sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy or sports beverages, they tend to put on weight. The study authors say these added pounds increase the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers -- conditions often referred to as obesity-related diseases.
Researchers at Harvard wanted to find out how often people around the globe drank sugar-sweetened beverages and how that affected their risk of death. They looked at 114 national dietary surveys covering more than 60% of the world's population. They also used evidence from studies published in medical journals that discussed sugary drinks and other dietary habits. Their data was included in the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, which looks at the health and mortality of populations across the world.
How did the Harvard scientists single out that sweet drinks were linked to weight gain and death? They spent several years gathering and combing through data. They looked at all kinds of factors that can affect our weight such as TV watching, changes in physical activity levels, smoking and the consumption of all kinds of food and drink.
When the researchers controlled for these factors, they were able to determine what percentage of deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer were linked to sugary drinks.
"The investigators examined changes in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and then its association with change in body fatness or BMI (body mass index), and subsequent deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer," says Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and chair of the American Heart Assocation's Nutrition Committee, who was not involved in the study.