Sipping on Death: This Everyday Drink Kills 184,000 Each Year

Researchers say we need a global push to reduce the amount of these drinks consumed. It’s bad in the U.S., and it’s even worse globally. (Photo: Getty Images)

Set down the soda. Sugary beverages might be even worse than we imagined, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation. Scientists say that these sugar-sweetened beverages result in roughly 184,000 deaths annually across the globe.

Teased briefly at the at the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention in 2013, this is the first in-depth report of the global impact of the sugary drinks — which have definitely come under fire in recent years. Research has linked regular soft drinks to the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as overall lower diet quality.

In the new study out of Tufts University in Boston, scientists analyzed 62 dietary studies of 611,971 people between the years 1980 and 2010. They looked for the effects of sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, iced teas or homemade beverages on subjects in 51 countries. Each beverage analyzed had to contain 50 calories per 8-ounce serving; 100-percent fruit juice was not included in the survey.

Researchers estimated the number of deaths or disabilities coming from the sugary drinks through meta-analyses of existing studies on these beverages’health harms. Having that data in hand, the scientists were able to calculate the direct influence of the sweetened drinks on diabetes and obesity-related issues like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

In the final year of the research, 2010, the scientists believe sugary drinks might have resulted in roughly:

  •     133,000 deaths from diabetes

  •     45,000 deaths from heart disease

  •     6,450 deaths from cancer

With that in mind, the researchers say we need a global push to reduce the amount of sugar-laden drinks consumed. For instance, in Latin American and Caribbean countries, sipping homemade sugary beverages is common fare. Mexico, for instance, by far had the highest death rate among the 20 most populated nations at 405 deaths per one million adults. The United States was second at around 125 deaths per million.

Related: The Scary Side Effect of Lemonade and Soda

Why are experts harping on a reduction in sugary drinks? According to Lori Chong, RD, a dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, it’s because just one sugar-sweetened beverage can put you well over the amount of added sugar you should be consuming everyday (AKA, the sugars that aren’t naturally-occurring, like those found in fruit and milk).

The American Heart Association recommends that men have no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, women have no more than 5 teaspoons per day, and children have no more than 3 or 4 teaspoons per day,”Chong explains. “One 12-oz can of soda is usually around 40 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons. We can meet or exceed our sugar limit in one standard-sized beverage. This leaves no room for a cookie or cake or ice cream or chocolate.”Which we will likely eat, regardless of whether we down a sugary drink.

In addition to an increased risk for conditions like nonalcoholic fatty liver, and a rise in triglycerides that may up your odds of heart disease, Chong says the other major issue with sweetened beverages is satiety. “We tend to not feel fullness from a 250-calorie drink the same as we would after a 250 calorie snack of solid food or milk,”she says. “This tends to lead to more calorie consumption overall, and thus weight gain. Obesity puts you at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Related: This is What Happens When You Drink 10 Cans of Soda Per Day for One Month

So, should you nix these beverages altogether? Chong says the decision is yours — but you could. “You have to decide where you want that sugar to come from,” she says. “We also get added sugar from cereals, bars, yogurt, candy and desserts, even some chips and crackers have added sugar. That being said, we don’t need any sugar. So, if a person wants to eliminate it, they will not suffer harm.”

Chong says, really, the big key is awareness about your added sugar consumption if you do indulge in a sweetened beverage every now and then.

Luckily, there’s been a push in recent years to slash the amount of sugary drinks consumed. According to data from 2014, Americans are buying 20 percent less soda than they did in 1998, and sales dipped by 3 percent in 2013 alone — the biggest drop in history.

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