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Sugar and Salt: The Battle to See Which Kills More of Us

A recent study found a correlation between how high a nation’s sugar consumption is and its type 2 diabetes rate. Now researchers are taking it a grim step further by estimating how many deaths can be directly attributed to sugary drinks.

Researchers at Harvard have linked sugary drinks to the deaths of 25,000 Americans every year and 180,000 deaths worldwide.

“We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together,” said Gitanjali Singh, the lead author of the five-year study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

soda and chips

In a not-so-shocking development, The American Beverage Association issued a critical response to the study’s findings.

“It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer – the real causes of death among the studied subjects,” the industry group said in a written statement. “The researchers make a huge leap when they 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.”

Not to be outdone, salt is staking its claim to specific death numbers… and it’s much worse than those attributed to sugary drinks.

The same Harvard researchers linked heavy salt consumption to one in 10 deaths in the U.S. and more than two million cardiovascular deaths worldwide.

Researchers used data from 247 surveys on sodium consumption and 107 clinical trials that examined how salt affects blood pressure, and blood pressure’s contribution to cardiovascular disease.

“The burden of sodium is much higher than the burden of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. “That’s because sugar-sweetened beverages are just one type of food that people can avoid, whereas sodium is in everything.”

The Salt Institute (you read that right, a salt advocacy group) took issue with the findings. Is anyone surprised?

“This misleading study did not measure any actual cardiovascular deaths related to salt intake, since, by the authors’ own admission, no country anywhere in the world consumes the low levels of salt they recommend,” said Morton Satin, vice president of science and research for the Virginia-based institute.

These latest studies came just a week after a judge shot down New York City’s ban on sugary drinks that are 16 ounces or larger. Mayor Bloomberg is determined to appeal.

Also Read:

How Pepsi Found Itself in the Middle of a Bioethics Debate

Sugar is Our Biggest National Health Threat

The DASH Diet is Ideal for Diabetics

 

April 1st, 2013

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