Sugary drinks cause 184,000 deaths worldwide annually, including 25,000 deaths in the United States, according to a new study.
The finding — a revised estimate of numbers first presented at a scientific meeting in 2013 — represents a tally of deaths from diabetes, heart disease and cancer that scientists say can be directly attributed to the consumption of sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks and iced teas.
The numbers imply that sugary drinks can cause as many deaths annually as the flu.
"It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. [7 Foods You Can Overdose On]
There is evidence that sugary drinks contribute to obesity and that obesity contributes to people's risk of these diseases, Mozaffarian said. Previous studies found that obesity-related diseases cause more than 17 million deaths per year.
For this latest study, led by Gitanjali Singh, an assistant professor at Tufts, researchers attempted to tease out the contribution that sugary drinks make to this global burden of obesity-related deaths. They calculated that there are 133,000 deaths yearly from type 2 diabetes; 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease; and 6,450 deaths from cancer.
The study is based on a complex statistical analysis of country-specific dietary habits and causes of death in more than 50 countries, coupled with information on the availability of sugar on the world market. The researchers' definition of sugary drinks included beverages sweetened with cane sugar, beet sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
"Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least eight were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world," Singh said.