A study published in Circulation reveals that cutting 20% of sugar in packaged foods and 40% from beverages can stop 2.48 million cardiovascular diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests. It can also prevent 490,000 cardiovascular deaths and 750,000 diabetes cases within the United States of the adult population.
How did the researchers find out?
A team of researchers designed a model to imitate and quantify the health, economic, and equity effects of a practical sugar-reduction policy introduced by the U.S National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI).
In 2018, the NSSRI published draft related to sugar-reduction targets for packaged foods and beverages in 15 categories for a collaboration of more than 100 local, state, and national health organizations arranged by the NYC DOH.
In February this year, NSSRI completed the policy with the industries agreeing to reduce sugar in their products. However, implementing a will need a national policy and continuous regulations on the industries and their production.
The researchers believe this study will add value to the pressure on making the policy at a national level. Siyi Shangguan, the lead author of the study says, “We hope that this study will help push the reformulation initiative forward in the next few years. Reducing the sugar content in packaged foods and beverages will have a larger impact on the health of Americans than other initiatives such as levying a sugar tax, labeling added sugar content, or banning sugary drinks in schools.”
The benefits of cutting sugar percentage in products
The model suggests in 10 years after the implementation of the NSSRI policy, the US can save $4.28 billion in total healthcare costs and $118.04 billion for the citizens during their adult life. Also, with the addition of societal loss due to these diseases, the total saving of the NSSRI policy increases to $160.88 billion over the adult life span.
The researchers also discovered that the policy can reduce disparities of health among Black, Hispanic, and American adults with low incomes in great length, as they consume the most sugar due to consequences of their social and economic positions.
Product reformulation efforts are thriving in reducing other harmful nutrients, such as trans fats and sodium. However, like in many countries, the reduction of sugar and policies against are not promoted as much in US. Countries like the UK, Norway, and Singapore are taking the lead on sugar-reformulation efforts.
Consumption of sugary foods and beverages is heavily connected to obesity and deaths due to diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the U.S.
Dariush Mozaffarian, a co-author of the study concludes, “Sugar is one of the most obvious additives in the food supply to reduce to reasonable amounts. Our findings suggest it’s time to implement a national program with voluntary sugar reduction targets, which can generate major improvements in health, health disparities, and healthcare spending in less than a decade.”