Deaths linked to sugary drinks

Researchers reported Tuesday that they have linked 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide to sugary drinks, including about 25,000 adult Americans.

Overall, 1 in 100 deaths of obese people globally can be blamed on too many sweetened beverages, according to a study presented at an American Heart Association scientific conference in New Orleans.

Mexico leads the 35 largest nations in deaths attributable to over-consumption of sugary drinks, with the United States third. Japan, which has one of the lowest per-capita consumptions of sugary drinks, had the fewest sugar-related deaths.

Using data collected as part of the World Health Organization’s 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study, the researchers determined that 78 percent of these deaths were in low- and middle-income countries.

Of the deaths in 2010 linked to drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks, fruit juice or sports beverages, 132,000 were from diabetes, 44,000 from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 from cancer.

The most diabetes deaths (38,000) occurred in the Latin America/Caribbean region, with East/Central Eurasia reporting the largest numbers of cardiovascular deaths (11,000) related to over-consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

The finding that three quarters of the deaths were from diabetes “suggests that limiting sugary-beverage intake is an important step in reducing diabetes deaths,” co-author Gitanjali Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an interview.

Average consumption varied widely – from less than one 8-ounce drink a day among elderly Chinese women to more than five 8-ounce drinks every day among younger Cuban men.

“Because we were focused on deaths due to chronic diseases, our study focused on adults. Future research should assess the amount of sugary beverage consumption in children across the world and how this affects their current and future health,” Singh said.

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