Boost your health by reducing sugar intake

A lot of packaged food and drink items come loaded with added sugar, which takes a hefty toll on our health. One study estimates that sugar-laden beverages take the lives of 184,000 people every year around the world. Reducing sugar intake can prevent unwanted weight gain and reduce the risks of developing heart disease and diabetes.

According to LiveScience, the data shows a count of deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer which researchers suggest can be directly linked to the intake of fruit drinks, sweetened sodas, sports and energy drinks and iced teas. 

“It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Excess sugary drinks lead to an increased risk of obesity and hence several obesity-related diseases that claim millions of lives a year. According to a JAMA study, just one can of soda each day could lead to 8 kgs of weight gain in a single year, and eventually leads to obesity.

A number of studies provide evidence that high-sugar diets lead to an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer which is one of the deadliest cancers. Not only this, but eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase the risk of heart disease.

In the Tufts study, led by Gitanjali Singh, an assistant professor at Tufts, scientists wanted to deduce how much sugary drinks contribute to obesity-related deaths worldwide. According to their figures, there are 133,000 deaths yearly from type 2 diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases and 6,450 deaths from cancer.

“Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least eight were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world,” Singh said. Sugary drinks taken into account included those made with sweetened with cane sugar, beet sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

Researchers said that in Mexico, about 30% of deaths among those under 45 years of age are because of sweetened drinks. The country, in which more than 10% of the people have diabetes, had the highest death rate due to sugar-sweetened beverages.

On the other hand, the deaths due to sugary drinks in Japan were negligible, as unsweetened teas are some of the most widely-consumed drinks.

In India, researchers [TKTK link] believe, there are nearly five times the total of undiagnosed patients and diabetes-related deaths than in the U.S.

However, the scientists could not accurately say that sugary drinks are the primary cause of these 184,000 deaths. Rather, these conclusions were based on national beverage consumption trends, death rates and sugar availability.

The American Heart Association outlines guidelines for added sugar – no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar for most women and no more than 150 calories a day for most men. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 for men.

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