Yes, you read it right! Analysis of new studies, including 250,000 people, has confirmed that sugar-sweetened drinks are linked to overweight and obesity in children and adults. A new review of the latest evidence on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), which includes 30 new studies, published between 2013 and 2015 (and none of them industry sponsored), has brought in such conclusion.
It also says that countries, which have not already done so, should take action to reduce the consumption of the so-called ’empty calories’ that these drinks contain.
The review is written by a team of authors, including lead author Dr Maria Luger, Special Institute for Preventive Cardiology And Nutrition SIPCAN, Salzburg, Austria, EASO President Elect Dr Nathalie Farpour-Lambert (University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland) and Dr Maira Bes-Rastrollo, University of Navarra, Spain, and Carlos III Institute of Health, Spain.
“The evidence base linking SSBs with obesity and overweight in children and adults has grown substantially in the past 3 years,” explained Dr Farpour-Lambert. “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.
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. Yet to date, actions to reduce SSB consumption in many countries are limited or non-existent,” she said.
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 US, 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.
Although the authors acknowledge it is near impossible to conclude with absolute certainty a direct cause-and-effect relationship between SSB consumption and overweight and obesity, Dr Farpour-Lambert said, “Associations between SSBs and body weight measures might be affected by other diet and lifestyle factors, but the majority of the prospective cohort studies adjusted for these possible confounding factors including several nutrition and lifestyle factors, and for all, except for one study, a positive association between SSB consumption and overweight/obesity was found. This suggests an independent effect of SSBs.”
The authors said new and innovative strategies are needed to reduce SSB consumption. Dr Farpour-Lambert concluded by saying, “Future research should focus on the following questions: How can we effectively reduce the consumption of SSBs in different populations? What is the impact of interventions on body weight or obesity in children and adults? What are the responsibilities of the food and beverages industry, policy makers, public health institutions, communities, schools, and individuals?
Is a sugar tax feasible and effective for solid food, and what impact will it have?”
“The balance between the responsibility of individuals, health advocates, and governments and society must be clarified. It is important to mobilise multiple stakeholders and to develop operational synergies across different sectors. Professional networks and the food and beverages industry must be encouraged to promote healthy diets in accordance with international standards,” she added.