Global diets are becoming much sweeter, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Dr. Corinna Hawkes, from City University London, found that 68 per cent of packaged foods and drinks contain caloric sweeteners, 74 per cent contain both caloric and low-calorie sweeteners, and only five per cent contain only low-calorie sweeteners.
The higher rates of sugar in our diets increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the study finds.
How was the study conducted?
The researchers used data from global nutritional datasets to assess patterns of sales for sugar-sweetened drinks. They found that, globally, sales of sugar-sweetened drinks are rising, according to two measures: calories sold per person per day, and volume sold per person per day, with sugar-sweetened drinks sales being led by consumers in the US, despite a general decline in rates of type 2 diabetes in that country.
Without proper public health interventions, the researchers argue, the rest of the world will have similarly high intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.
“Consumption is rising fastest in low- and middle-income countries in Latin American, the Caribbea, African, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania,” said the researchers.
How can sugar intake be reduced?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has implemented several measures to encourage a lower intake of sugar, including a sugar intake guideline.
Governments throughout the world have implemented further measures, including taxing sugary products, making them unavailable in schools, and restricting the marketing of sugary foods.
The authors note that they have “shown from trends data that consumption seems to be decreasing in countries with taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.” They describe measures such as taxation as a first step in a learning process, rather than a comprehensive solution to the problem of excessive sugar consumption.
“[The World Health Organisation], major scientific bodies, and most countries recognise the importance of reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to improve public health. The evaluation of not only sugar taxes, but also new marketing controls and front-of pack labelling, is important and represents one of the next frontiers – namely, can these policies effectively reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and intake of total added sugars?”
The findings are published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

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