A 40 percent reduction in sugars added to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) over five years could result in a sufficiently lower daily energy intake and drop average body weight by 1.20 kilograms among U.K. adults — enough, if sustained, to dent the numbers of people with excessive weight and obesity, researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) recently reported.
Over 20 years, the reduction might stop 500,000 adults from becoming overweight and 1 million from becoming obese, and prevent nearly 300,000 new cases of obesity-related type 2 diabetes, the researchers said. The impact of the sugar reduction was found to be greater among teenagers and younger adults, and individuals from lower-income families, all of whom typically consume larger amounts of SSBs.
The study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology and titled “Gradual reduction of sugar in soft drinks without substitution as a strategy to reduce overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes: a modeling study,” gathered data from the British Soft Drinks Association annual reports and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling program. The initiative was similar to previous work on salt, known as the “UK’s salt reduction experience,” which studied the five-year health effects of a 40 percent reduction in salt intake.
“Our proposed strategy provides an innovative and practical way to gradually reduce energy intake from sugar-sweetened beverages and its combination with other strategies, including a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, would produce a more powerful effect,” said the study’s authors, according to a news release. The team also acknowledged that, in the long run, this goal might be difficult due to the power of the sugar industry.
Still, the team believes that this change can be a potentially win-win situation, as the calories lost from SSBs are unlikely to be replaced by other sources, and also unlikely to have a significant influence on the cost and price of the products, affecting neither the soft drinks industry’s sales nor profits.
“The proposed strategy could lead to a profound reduction in energy intake from sugar-sweetened beverages and could therefore lower the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and Type-2 diabetes in the long-term. These findings provide strong support for the implementation of the proposed strategy,” concluded Professor Graham MacGregor, one of the study’s co-authors.