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Doctors Determine The Enormous Body Count Of Sugary Drinks

It’s not just an abstract idea anymore. Doctors have made an estimate of how many people die each year from the direct health problems caused by drinking soda and other sweetened drinks. It’s a very large number.

We know in the abstract that sugary drinks are bad for us, but exactly how bad? When researchers crunch the numbers, they find that 184,000 people a year are dying from diseases directly related to consuming soda and other heavily sugared beverages.

A study led by Gitanjali Singh, at Harvard, analyzed 114 national dietary surveys, representing about 60% of the global population. The researchers looked at the impact of changes in sugary drink intake on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers, then modeled those findings with country, age, sex, and cause-specific death-rate data.

The paper, presented at an American Heart Association conference, attributes 132,000 of the deaths to diabetes, with the rest coming from the other diseases (diabetes kills 1.3 million people in total every year). The worst rates of mortality were in Latin America and the Caribbean, where deaths reached 118 per million people. Among the 15 most populous countries, Mexico fared worst.

The study’s summary concludes:

[Sugar-sweetened beverages] are a major cause of preventable deaths due to chronic diseases, not only in high-income countries, but in low and middle-income countries as well. These findings provide the most comprehensive quantitative estimates of this burden to inform global prevention programs.

"Prevention programs" presumably means encouraging people not to drink the stuff. Sadly, the country’s biggest attempt at doing just that didn’t quite make it out the door.