New review confirms sugar-sweetened drinks linked to overweight, obesity

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(Net photo)

A new analysis concludes that the latest evidence on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumption is associated with overweight and obesity.

According to the WHO estimates, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.

The systematic review of recent cohort studies and randomized controlled trials, published recently in the journal Obesity Facts, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), and written by an international research team, includes 30 new studies published between 2013 and 2015.

“The evidence base linking SSBs with obesity and overweight in children and adults has grown substantially in the past 3 years,” EASO President Elect Dr Nathalie Farpour-Lambert was quoted as saying in a news release. “We were able to include 30 new studies not sponsored by the industry in this review, an average of 10 per year. This compares with a previous review that included 32 studies across the period 1990-2012.”

This new, more recent evidence suggests that SSB consumption is positively associated with obesity in children. According to WHO, over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.

“By combining the already published evidence with this new research, we conclude something that in many ways should already be obvious: public health policies should aim to reduce the consumption of SSBs and encourage healthy alternatives such as water,” said Dr Farpour-Lambert. “Yet to date, actions to reduce SSB consumption in many countries are limited or non-existent.”

About 93 percent of the 30 included studies in children and adults revealed a positive association between SSB consumption and overweight/obesity, while only one prospective cohort study in children showed no association, according to the study.

A total of 244,651 study participants were included in this new systematic review. Regarding the geographical area of the studies included, 33 percent were done in Europe, 23 percent in the U.S., 17 percent in Middle or South America, 10 percent in Australia, 7 percent in South Africa, and the remaining 10 percent in Iran, Thailand and Japan.

A report from Euromonitor International indicates that, to date, 19 countries have so far introduced taxes on food and drinks and that more aim to do so in the near future with the target of reducing sugar consumption by 20 percent in accordance with the WHO guidelines.

The review suggests that countries that have not already done so should take action to reduce the consumption of the so-called ‘empty calories’ that these drinks contain.