Cutting 20 per cent of sugar from packaged foods and 40 per cent from beverages can prevent death as well as the onset of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in millions of people worldwide, according to a study. The study, led by a team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University and others, showed that reducing the amount of sugars in packaged foods and beverages can reduce the risk of 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events (such as strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests), 490,000 cardiovascular deaths, and 750,000 diabetes cases in the US.
The reports was published in the journal Circulation.
"Reducing the sugar content of commercially prepared foods and beverages will have a larger impact on the health of Americans than other initiatives to cut sugar, such as imposing a sugar tax, labelling added sugar content, or banning sugary drinks in schools," said lead author, and attending physician at MGH, Siyi Shangguan.
Consuming sugary foods and beverages is strongly linked to obesity and diseases such as Type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of mortality in the US. More than two in five American adults are obese, one in two have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and nearly one in two have cardiovascular disease, with those from lower-income groups being disproportionately burdened.
"Sugar is one of the most obvious additives in the food supply to reduce to reasonable amounts," said Dariush Mozaffarian, co-senior author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
"Our findings suggest it's time to implement a national programme with voluntary sugar reduction targets, which can generate major improvements in health, health disparities, and healthcare spending in less than a decade," Mozaffarian added.
The team created a model to simulate and quantify the health, economic, and equity impacts of a pragmatic sugar-reduction policy proposed by the US National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI).
Ten years after the NSSRI policy goes into effect, the US could expect to save $4.28 billion in total net healthcare costs, and $118.04 billion over the lifetime of the current adult population (ages 35 to 79), according to the model.