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Sugary drinks could be causing 200,000 deaths a year worldwide

Sugary soft drinks could be causing almost 200,000 deaths a year worldwide, a study has found. Researchers used data from a major investigation of global disease to calculate the death toll associated with consumption of sodas and other sweetened drinks.They linked the drinks to 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 44,000 from heart disease and 6,000 from cancer.

The vast majority - 78 per cent of the deaths - occurred in low and middle-income countries rather than rich countries. Although a causal link cannot be proved, sugar-sweetened drinks are known to contribute to excess body weight which in turn increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The scientists based their findings on information collected as part of the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases study.

Of nine world regions, Latin America and the Caribbean had the highest number of diabetes deaths linked to soft drinks. East and central Russia had the largest number of heart disease deaths. Mexico, which has one of the highest levels of sugary drink consumption in the world, had the greatest overall death rate.

In Mexico, 318 deaths per million adults each year were associated with sugar-sweetened drink consumption. Japan, whose population is among those consuming the least sugary drinks, had the lowest death rate - just 10 per million adults. 'Because we were focused on deaths due to chronic disease, our study focused on adults,' said lead researcher Dr Gitanjali Singh, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, U.S. 'Future research should assess the amount of sugary beverage consumption in children across the world and how this affects their current and future health.'

The findings were presented today at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism meeting in New Orleans. Last month researchers warned that drinking just one can of fizzy drink a day could increase the risk of developing life-threatening Type 2 diabetes.

Scientists have found that sugar-based calories, such as those found in fizzy drinks, are much more likely to cause the condition than the same number of calories from any other source. For every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose by one per cent.

In contrast, an additional 150 calories of any type caused only a 0.1 per cent increase in the population's diabetes rate, the researchers from Stanford University, the University of California-Berkley and the University of California-San Francisco found. This was the first time that scientists have questioned the theory that eating too much of any food is what causes obesity and that the resulting obesity is what causes diabetes.

Anna Hodgekiss