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Sugary Drink Deaths: Study Links Beverages to 180,000 Annual Toll

Image: Sugary Drink Deaths: Study Links Beverages to 180,000 Annual Toll

By Michael Mullins   |   Wednesday, 20 Mar 2013 10:49 AM

Sugary drinks are linked to 180,000 deaths worldwide, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health.

The United States has the third highest death rate from sugary drinks among the world's 35 largest countries, with Mexico coming in first, claims Gitanjali Singh, an author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard.

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"This means about one in every 100 deaths from obesity-related diseases is caused by drinking sugary beverages," Singh said at the American Heart Association conference this week.

Singh and colleagues spent five years analyzing data from national health surveys, tying sugar-sweetened beverages to 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 44,000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases, and 6,000 deaths from cancer in 2010.

The new research adds to mounting evidence that consumption of sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, and energy drinks, and sports beverages, contribute to weight gain over time, thereby increasing the individual's risk of getting diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

The American Beverage Association downplayed the study, claiming the report was more "sensationalism than science," CNN reported.

The group also called the correlative research a "huge leap" that does not explicitly show sugary beverages causes health issues or death.

"The researchers make a huge leap when they illogically and wrongly take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease," a statement said.

The research comes at a time when the link between sugary drinks and obesity sparked New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to push a ban that would keep sugary drinks exceeding 16 ounces out of the hands of consumers. The ban, which was slated to take effect last Tuesday, was struck down by a Supreme Court judge.

New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling blocked the sugary drink prohibition, calling it "arbitrary and capricious."

"The rule would not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it. Such an evisceration has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened drinks," Tingling said, siding with store keepers, unions, theater owners and beverage sellers who opposed the ban.

Bloomberg said he plans to appeal the decision.

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"I got to defend my children and you and everybody else and do what’s right to save lives. Obesity kills. There’s just no question about it. This is not a political capital thing,” Bloomberg said. “This is just one human being to another. This is what we got to do."

About 5,000 New Yorkers and 70,000 Americans die from obesity-related illnesses each year, the New York Post reported. 

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