Tufts Study Finds 184,000 Deaths Caused By Sugary Drinks Annually

Sugar-sweetened drinks play a large part in heart disease, cancer, and diabetes deaths worldwide.

The fight against sugar-sweetened beverages has been waging for years, but a new study from Tufts University just added some major evidence to illustrate sugary drinks’ health risks.

Researchers from Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition found in a recent study that sugary drinks like soda, energy drinks, and sweetened fruit juices and teas, play a part in 184,000 deaths worldwide every year. The study is the first to look at sugary drinks’ impact on conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes in specific countries, age groups, and genders.

The researchers completed dietary surveys of 611,972 people from 51 countries across the world, and concluded that sugar-sweetened beverages were linked to 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 from heart disease, and 6,450 from cancers in 2010. Middle-income countries, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, had the highest rates of sugar-sweetened beverage deaths overall, though the U.S. was second only to Mexico. The researchers also found that 10 percent of people in the U.S. who died younger than 45 had conditions that could be tied back to sugary drinks.

Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition, said in an interview that it’s important to focus on cutting back on sugary drinks because they are an unnecessary part of the modern diet:

“Other efforts to improve health, like lowering sodium or decreasing added sugar, are all feasible, but complicated. You’d need to have replacements, you’d have to think about taste or safety, and so on. But sugar-sweetened beverages can simply be cut out and replaced with seltzer or water or milk. It’s ironically a so-called low-hanging fruit for nutrition and public health policy.”


Jamie Ducharme Jamie Ducharme, Contributor jducharme@bostonmagazine.com