1. This modeling study, conducted in the UK, estimated that gradually reducing the amount of free sugars added to sugar-sweetened drinks by 40% over five years would prevent 500,000 adults from becoming overweight and 1 million adults from becoming obese.
2. Additionally, removing free sugars would prevent approximately 300,000 cases of obesity-related type 2 diabetes.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: The consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks continues to rise and is the largest source of sugar for children and the second largest source for adults in the UK. Evidence has shown that consuming sugary drinks contributes to obesity in children and adults, and has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This modeling study sought to analyze the effect of reducing the amount of free sugars added to sugar-sweetened drinks by 9.7% per year with a goal of 40% reduction over five years. Data was used to calculate the consumption of sugar-containing beverages in the UK population, estimate the decrease in energy intake as a result of the proposal to reduce free sugar, and estimate the reduction in the number of overweight and obese adults and adults with type 2 diabetes in the UK population.
The results showed that a 40% reduction over five years in free sugars added to sugar-sweetened drinks would lead to 38.4 kcal per day less energy intake, resulting in a decrease in bodyweight by 1.2 kg in the long term. This would lead to 500,000 less overweight adults and 1 million less obese adults, a decrease by 1% and 2.1%, respectively, and prevent approximately 300,000 cases of obesity related type 2 diabetes over the next two decades. This study was strengthened by suggesting a stepwise approach to remove sugar that has already been successful with salt, but was limited by only using the model to predict weight change in adults rather than children.
In-Depth [prospective cohort]: This study utilized data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling program (NDNS RP) from 2008-12 and the British Soft Drinks Association to calculate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in the UK population. The term “free sugars” included all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to soft drinks, and natural sugars in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit juices.
Reducing the amount of free sugars added to sugar-containing drinks by 40% over 5 years would lead to 38.4 kcal per day less energy intake (95% CI 36.3-40.7), corresponding to an average reduction in bodyweight of 1.20 kg (1.12-1.28). This reduction in bodyweight would result in a decreased prevalence in overweight adults from 35.5% to 34.5% and obese adults from 27.8% to 25.7%, and prevent 274,000-309,000 cases of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, in a separate analysis excluding fruit juices, the energy intake would decrease by 31.0 kcal per day (95% CI 28.6-33.7) and bodyweight would decrease by 0.96 kg (0.88-1.04). This would lead to 300,000 less overweight adults (0.7%) and 800,000 less obese adults (1.7%), and prevent 221,000-250,000 cases of type 2 diabetes.
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