Health Concerns Over Soda, Sugary Drinks Heightened by New Study

Before consumers reach for another can of soda, energy drink or other sugary beverage, they may want to think twice, according to the findings of new research that has linked the beverages to more than 180,000 deaths every year, worldwide.

A five year study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. was presented this week at the American Heart Association conference, indicating that consumption of sugary drinks is directly linked to obesity related diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.

Researchers took information from 114 national health surveys covering 60% of the world’s population and findings published in medical journals. Research shows the consumption of sugary drinks like soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and sugary juices leads to weight gain and an increased risk for obesity related diseases, like diabetes.

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The study then accounted for other factors such as television watching, changes in physical activity and consumption of other food and beverages to determine what portion of the annual deaths from obesity related diseases were linked to sugary drinks.

Gitanjali M. Singh, Ph.D., and co-authors of the study, found 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 44,000 from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 from certain types of cancer. More than 25,000 deaths in the United States resulted from sugary beverage consumption.

Mexico had the highest death rate related to sugary drinks, as it is the country with the highest consumption of sugary drinks per capita worldwide.

East and Central Eurasia reported the highest number of cardiovascular deaths, with 11,000 related to sugary drinks. Nearly 78% of the deaths were reported in low to middle income countries and not in high income countries as many hypothesized.

The highest death rates linked to sugary drinks were reported in young adults under the age of 45. Nearly 1 in 10 deaths were related to sugary drinks.

Study Response and Growing Concerns

The study has not been published in a peer reviewed journal, which has drawn criticism from the American Beverage Association in a response by calling the research “more about sensationalism than science.” The association argues that the study fails to show that sugary beverages cause chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and maintains those diseases are the true cause of death, not the beverages themselves.

The new research comes amid growing concern over side effects stemming from energy drink consumption, and in some cases death. The FDA received 37 adverse event reports involving Monster energy drinks since 2004, including six deaths.

A 14 year old California girl suffered cardiac arrest last year, allegedly caused by caffeine overdose after drinking two Monster Energy drinks over a 24 hour-period. Her parents are currently pursuing a lawsuit against Monster Energy Corp.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked energy drinks to serious side effects, such as increased heart rate, sleep disturbances, hyperglycemia and diuresis. Other reports indicate emergency room visits concerning energy drink side effects are rising, doubling over the past four years.


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