A disturbing trend: Global consumption of sugary drinks is rising steadily

A study published in Nature Communications by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy shows that geographical location has a significant impact on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, with global sugar-sweetened beverage consumption increasing by 16% over 28 years. Consumption rates vary widely by region, with Latin America and the Caribbean having the highest consumption rates. The study highlights the public health risks of sugary drinks and the socioeconomic factors that influence consumption, and calls for targeted policies to reduce intake.

Researchers at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy said the dietary survey data showed regional and age differences.

Whether you decide to drink sugary drinks depends largely on where you live, researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy report in a new study published Oct. 3 in the journal nature communications. While an analysis of the Global Diet Database from 1990, 2005 and 2018 found that overall global consumption of sugary drinks increased by nearly 16% during the 28-year period studied, regional intake varied widely.

Health issues and dietary advice

Sugary drinks are a public health concern because they are widely associated with obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, which are among the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Many national guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 5 to 10 percent of daily calories, and since soda adds no nutritional value, some countries tax its consumption to help their residents achieve this goal.

Research insights and demographic changes

The study is the latest snapshot of how adults in 185 countries consume sugary drinks, specifically: soft drinks, energy drinks, juices, punches, lemonades and drinks with more than 50 calories per serving (8 ounces) . Intake varies widely among regions of the world. For example, in 2018, the average person consumed 2.7 sugary drinks per week, but this ranged from 0.7 servings per week in South Asia to 7.8 servings per week in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It was observed that global intake was higher in men than women and in younger adults than in older adults, but the roles of education and rural/urban residence were more affected by region of origin. In sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America/Caribbean, more educated adults are more likely to consume sugary drinks than less educated adults, while the reverse is true in the Middle East/North Africa. Overall, the world’s highest consumers of sugary drinks are urban, highly educated adults in sub-Saharan Africa (12.4 servings per week) and Latin America/Caribbean (8.5 servings per week).

National consumption patterns and socioeconomic factors

At the national level, the countries with the highest number of sugary drinks consumed per week include Mexico (8.9), Ethiopia (7.1), the United States (4.9) and Nigeria (4.9), while India, China and Bangladesh (0.2 each).

“We were struck by the vast disparities across regions of the world in 2018; Despite overall reductions in overtime, Latin America/Caribbean had the greatest intake at all time points; Friedman School of Nutritional Epidemiology and “Sub-Saharan Africa has had the largest increase at any point in time,” said first author Laura Lara-Castor, a doctoral student in the Data Science program. “These results indicate that more work needs to be done, particularly on successful interventions such as marketing regulations, food labeling and soda taxes. “

Information from the Global Diet Database summarizes the results of hundreds of surveys on people’s diet and also reveals the relationship between sugary drinks and socioeconomic status. Between 1990 and 2018, the largest increase in consumption was in sub-Saharan Africa (+2.99; +81.9%). Uptake first increased and then declined in high-income countries, and in Latin America/Caribbean, after first declining and then increasing, uptake returned to levels close to 1990 by 2018. Growth in other parts of the world has been more modest and steady over time. Similar patterns were observed for gender, age, education, and region of residence.

Root causes and future research

While the study did not identify the cause of these trends, the researchers speculated that the changes may be related to the effectiveness of targeted marketing strategies by the soda and food industries, the association of Western diets with high status, and access to water. “Soda can reach the farthest places, and in countries with less clean water, these drinks can sometimes be the only thing available to drink,” Lara-Cast said.

“Despite efforts to reduce the appeal of sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened beverage intake has increased over the past few decades,” said cardiologist Dariusz Moza, a professor of nutrition at the Friedman School. Dariush Mozaffarian said. “Some populations are particularly vulnerable and our findings provide evidence to inform the need and design of national and more targeted policies to reduce intake globally.”

Researchers say more work is needed to assess sugary drink intake among children and adolescents, measure the global impact of soda taxes and better understand differences among subpopulations in each country. The team also wants to explore how other sweetened beverages, such as milk, coffee and tea, affect consumption habits.

Reference: “Sugar-sweetened beverage intake among adults in 185 countries, 1990 to 2018” Author: Laura Lara-Castor, Renata Micha, Frederick Cudhea, Victoria Miller, Peilin Shi, Jianyi Zhang, Julia R. Sharib, Josh Erndt – Marino, Sean B. Cash, Dariush Mozaffarian and the Global Diet Database, October 3, 2023 nature communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-41269-8


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