Sugar’s death toll keeps on rising

It seems the beverage industry has stepped up their game of deception and are now targeting a younger, less wealthy group when pitching their poisons. And, man, their marketing is good.

But when you see headlines like:

“Sugary drinks causing 200,000 deaths per year”

You’d think it would shock people into never drinking a soda again.

And some people in the US are beginning to wake up. But, unfortunately, in other countries, the statistics aren’t too promising.

According to a recent study published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal Circulation, deaths from the effects of consuming too many sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are spiking at an alarming rate. And not just in wealthy countries. It’s happening across the board in every developing and middle-income nation too. In fact, middle-income countries had the worst numbers…and the overwhelming majority of cases were young adults.

This large scale study conducted surveys of more than 611,971 people from 51 countries between 1980 and 2010. The sugary drinks they focused on were sodas, sports and energy drinks, sweetened iced tea, and frescas (which are soft drinks made with puréed fruit, water, and sugar that are popular in Latin America, the Caribbean and Mexico). They also included fruit drinks, but not fruit juice (once again feeding into the misconceived notion that fruit juice is good for you).

The researchers found that middle-income countries, particularly Mexico, had more than 70% of the SSBs-related deaths. High-income countries such as the US followed with 24.1%. And 5% were from low-income countries. Not surprisingly, Japan had the lowest rate–just 1%.

The thing that impressed me most about this study is that the researchers didn’t stop short by simply saying sugar-sweetened beverages are “associated” with weight gain. They took it a giant step further and showed exactly how sugary drinks take the ultimate toll on your health.

Of the nearly 200,000 deaths highlighted in this study, they attributed 133,000 to diabetes, 45,000 to cardiovascular disease, and 6,450 to cancer. All a direct result of drinking sugary beverages.

Boy did the beverage manufacturers do a number on the health of the world.

If this study were about cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs, world governments would be stepping over themselves to try to find solutions.

Yet the powers-that-be are very slow at wrapping their heads around the fact that sugar is as deadly as any of these other substances–if not more so. (And I’ll give you one guess why.)

The good news is, people are finally beginning to wise up here in the US. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is actually going down in our country. And some places are taking a direct stand against the beverage industry.

Berkeley, California began the movement back in 2014 as the first city to pass a bill to tax sugary drinks. Some other states are following suit, like Vermont, which just began imposing a 6% sales tax on some soft drinks this past July.

This is a good start…but there’s still a long way to go.

California also considered putting a warning on the labels of soft drinks, but the legislation never made it through. If I had my way, #sugarkills would be slapped across every bottle of soda and juice on the shelf.

It might sound extreme. But the effects of sugar ARE extreme. It’s quite literally killing us. And especially our kids. In fact, thanks to sugary drinks, one in 10 kids will either develop diabetes or become obese, and then die because of it.

As I’ve said countless times before, it’s never too early to teach your kids about the dangers of sugar, and I go into great detail about just how to do this in my book Feed Your Kids Well. The most important thing is to be a good example to them. If you do as you say and eliminate sugary drinks from your own diet, they will follow your lead.

Aside from good parenting, doctors need to take some responsibility here too. In fact, the authors of this new study believe physicians should have serious conversations with their patients about how dangerous sugar is at every appointment.

Of course, that’s a non-issue in my practice. I always take the time to talk about this with my patients. But when a physician only has 5 minutes max to talk with their patients, you can see how the medical system isn’t geared towards prevention but rather toward fixing what’s broken.

If you ask me, what’s truly broken is the food (and beverage) industrial complex. Fix that and you will fix far more of the world’s health problems than any of Big Pharma’s “miracle” pills ever could.

In the meantime, hopefully these findings will make you think twice before gulping down that 20 oz. fountain soda at the movies. It’s just not worth risking your life over.