Friday, 5 April 2019

Soft Drinks & Diabetes

Last year I went to a seminar on perspectives, where the presenter asked who knew which nation drank the most soft drink and had the highest increase in diabetes. None of us guessed Saudi Arabia, the 9th highest global consumer of soft drinks. Countries who almost seem to bathe in fizzy drinks are South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Mexico), Germany, Belgium and - unsurprisingly - the USA (Sheth, 25 April 2017).

Each American consumes a staggering 154 litres of soft drink each year (Sheth, 25 April 2017), totalling 20% of their weekly grocery spend (Blumenthal & Kiani, 14 December 2017), but Argentina tops out the tooth-rot stakes at 155 litres per person. Saudi Arabia meanders in at 89 litres. But think about how much that is: for Americans and Argentinians it is roughly 425mls per day. The Saudis drink 240mls per day (Sheth, 25 April 2017). But the American total doesn't include "sugar-sweetened beverages, which include fruit juices, energy drinks, sweetened tea, and soft drinks", which adds another 7% to the weekly US grocery shop (Blumenthal & Kiani, 14 December 2017). 

New Zealanders are more feeble in our fizzy drink consumption, swallowing around 72 litres each (Dastgheib, 20 January 2015).

Basu, McKee, Galea and Stuckler (2013, p. 2077) found their cross-correlation of soft drink consumption, incidence of diabetes and obesity "indicated that soft drink consumption was significantly associated with obesity and diabetes prevalence worldwide, even in low- and middle-income countries. Thus, the continued rise of soft drink consumption poses a global public health risk of worsening obesity and diabetes."

Coming back to the 425mls of soft drink a day, to put that in perspective, a 330ml can of Coke has 139 calories, so the US daily consumption is roughly 180 calories. It is estimated that eating 300 calories less than we need a day will lead to a 10 kilo weight loss in a year. Cutting out other sweet drinks - i.e., the additional 7% of US grocery spend on sweetened drinks - may amount to another 50 to 100 fewer daily calories. Americans could then lose weight relatively easily. 

The rest of the planet could take a similar strategy - for example, Kiwis add another 42 litres of orange juice, sports drinks and other rubbish onto the fizzy total (Dastgheib, 20 January 2015), totalling 114 litres per year: roughly 150 daily calories that we can easily do without

Basu et al also noted that "Industry analysts suggest that soft drink consumption is expected to rise by 15.7% over the next 5 years in low- and middle-income countries and 9.5% worldwide.17 To put the magnitude of the associations we found into perspective, this projected rise in soft drink consumption would correspond to an additional 2.3 billion adults who are overweight, 1.1 billion adults who are obese, and 192 million new cases of diabetes worldwide over the next 5 years, with at least 60% of the burden falling on low- and middle-income countries" (Basu et al, 2013, p. 2076).

Time to kill the sugary drinks, I think.



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