Sugary Drinks Are a Big Contributor to New Diabetes Cases, Researchers Say

Talk of taxing sugary drinks may spread in light of a new study that connects soft drink consumption with diabetes.

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo

Researchers led by UCSF epidemiologist Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, used a well-established computer model to determine that excess consumption of soft drinks, sports drinks and sweetened juices resulted in an estimated 130,000 additional cases of diabetes from 1990 to 2000. Several prior epidemiological studies have linked the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to both increased weight gain and to diabetes risk above and beyond weight gain, according to Bibbins-Domingo. The scientists calculated the additional public health burden due to diabetes and heart disease that could be attributed to individuals’ drinking more than one sugar-sweetened beverage daily. “Our goal was to take the currently available evidence linking the excessive consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks to diabetes and weight gain and to assess the potential public health benefits of curbing this excessive consumption,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “As a nation we are consuming more and more of these drinks, and our study suggests that this rise in consumption has contributed to the burden of diabetes and heart disease nationally.” The researchers reported their findings earlier this month in San Francisco at the American Heart Association’s 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. Diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. The estimated public health impact due to millions of people downing two or more sweetened drinks daily also included 14,000 additional cases of cardiovascular disease, the researchers found. The cost per decade of excess coronary artery disease attributable to elevated consumption of sweetened drinks may be as high as $500 billion, they report. To gauge public health impacts, Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model. The model is based on data from several large studies, including the Framingham Heart Study, The Nurses Health Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Bibbins-Domingo also is interested in the public health impacts of salt consumption. In a study published in the February 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, her research group used the same computer simulation model to estimate that there would be 92,000 fewer US deaths from heart attacks each year if Americans cut daily salt consumption by one-half teaspoon..

Related Links:

UCSF Lecture on Sugar & Obesity Goes Viral as Experts Confront Health Crisis
UCSF Today, March 11, 2010 Ounces of Prevention -- The Public Policy Case for a Tax on Sugared Beverages
NEJM, April 30, 2009 The Public Health and Economic Benefits of Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
NEJM, October 15, 2009 Even a small dietary reduction in salt could mean fewer heart attacks, strokes and deathsUCSF Press Release, January 20, 2010