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Is it Time to Get Tough About Sugar Reductions?

Added sugar causes a lot of not-so-sweet results.

Graphic with several cans of soda to represent need for sugar reductions

What would it mean to trim 20% of added sugar from packaged foods and 40% from beverages? According to a study published in Circulation, sugar reductions could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events (such as strokes and heart attacks), 490,000 cardiovascular deaths, and 750,000 diabetes cases in the U.S. over the lifetime of the adult population.

This is per a team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. They created a model to simulate and quantify the health, economic and equity impacts of a sugar-reduction policy proposed by the U.S. National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative.

The NSSRI is a partnership of more than 100 local, state and national health organizations. The model forecasts that, 10 years after the NSSRI policy goes into effect, the U.S. could expect to save $4.28 billion in total net healthcare costs and $118.04 billion over the lifetime of the current adult population (ages 35–79).

The study authors point out that the policy could also reduce disparities, with the greatest estimated health gains among Black and Hispanic adults and Americans with lower income and less education. These are populations that typically consume the most added sugar and, in turn, suffer the most health detriments. Implementing such a policy, however, will require robust government support to monitor companies as they work toward reduction targets.

Do you believe reducing the sugar content of commercially prepared foods and beverages would have such a major impact on population health and healthcare costs? Should the government implement a national sugar reformulation policy that food and drink companies need to adhere to? Or should sugar reductions still be an individual choice with less government oversight? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

See also: More Sugar Danger

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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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