A new study carried out by researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and published in the journal, Nature Communications, has indicated that between 2005 and 2018, highly educated adults in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, tend to consume more sugar-sweetened beverages than their counterparts in the Middle East/North Africa.
It was also discovered that the highest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in the world occurred in Nigeria, Mexico, Ethiopia, and the United States of America over the same specified period on a national scale.
The study showed that the global consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increased by 16 per cent with sub-Saharan Africa experiencing the largest increase – 41 per cent, while Latin America and Caribbean, and high-income countries showed decreasing trends.
Experts have always linked sugar-sweetened beverages to debilitating health issues, but a lack of national estimates on their consumption has hindered effective interventions and targeted population groups in need.
In carrying out the study analysis of sugar-sweetened beverage intake trends in adults aged 20 and above across 185 countries for 1990, 2005, and 2018 was carried out.
Data was sourced from the Global Dietary Database, which provided subnational stratification based on factors like age, education, sex, and urban or rural residence.
Sugar-sweetened beverages were defined by their caloric content, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, lemonade, punch, and aguas frescas.
They excluded non-caloric artificially sweetened beverages, 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices, and sweetened milk.
According to the researchers, there were 12.4 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per week recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 8.5 servings per week in Latin America/the Caribbean, which were among the highest per capita consumption of sugary drinks among urban, highly educated individuals in the world.
The report, which also examined the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among adults from 1990 to 2018 in 185 countries, revealed that Mexico consumed the most sweetened drink servings per week with 8.9 servings, followed by Ethiopia, 7.1; the United States, 4.9; and Nigeria, 4.9; whereas India, China, and Bangladesh consumed the least of 0.2 each.
Findings from the study further indicated that global intakes were higher in males versus females and in younger versus older people, but the impact of education and rural/urban residency was influenced more by region of origin.
According to the researchers, the study highlighted the critical role of diet and beverage consumption in health outcomes, and that unhealthy dietary habits contribute to conditions such as obesity, malnutrition, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The research, it was noted, has significant implications for public health policies and interventions, given the adverse effects of high sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dental problems, and cancer.
The study’s findings can inform guidelines, interventions, and policies to limit sugar-sweetened beverages intake within recommended limits, including measures like warning labels, taxes, nutrition education, and marketing standards.
Age, gender, and urban/rural residence played roles in sugar-sweetened beverages consumption trends with younger adults in specific regions identified as higher consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Rural areas in certain regions had higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake than urban areas, while education level and socioeconomic status influenced consumption patterns in diverse ways. The study also revealed a correlation between sociodemographic development index (SDI) and sugar-sweetened beverages intake, indicating disparities in sugar-sweetened beverages consumption at the national level.
The results of this study show a rise in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption worldwide, with susceptible categories including young individuals and people with less education showing greater intake.
According to the researchers, in order to lessen the worldwide burden of health problems related to sugar-sweetened beverages consumption, it is important to address these discrepancies through targeted policies and initiatives.
They, however, said the study serves as a basis for further research and the development of policies to address health-related issues associated with sugar-sweetened beverages.