Study examines proposal targeting packaged food and beverages

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Removing 20 percent of sugar from packaged foods and 40 percent from drinks could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular diseases (such as strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests), 490,000 cardiovascular deaths and 750,000 cases of diabetes in the United States during the lifetime of the adult population, reports a study published in Circulation.

  • By MGH NEWS and PUBLIC AFFAIRS

A researcher from Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), as well as researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOH), created a model to simulate and quantify the health, economic and equity impacts of a pragmatic sugar reduction policy proposed by the National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI ) the United States.

A partnership of more than 100 local, state and national health organizations convened by the NYC DOH, the NSSRI released draft sugar reduction targets for packaged foods and beverages in 15 categories in 2018.

Last February, the NSSRI finalized the policy with the goal of the industry making a voluntary commitment to gradually reformulate its sweet products.

Implementing a national policy, however, will require government support to monitor companies as they strive to meet targets and to publicly report on their progress.

Researchers hope their model will build consensus on the need for a national sugar reformulation policy in the United States

“We hope this study will help advance the reformulation initiative over the next several years,” said Siyi Shangguan, senior author and attending physician at MGH.

“Reducing the sugar content of commercially prepared foods and beverages will have a greater impact on the health of Americans than other initiatives to reduce sugar, such as imposing a tax on sugar, l ‘labeling of added sugar content or banning sugary drinks in schools,’ Shangguan said. .

Ten years after the NSSRI policy took effect, the United States could expect to save $ 4.28 billion in total net health costs and $ 118.04 billion over the lifespan of the population. current adult (35 to 79 years), depending on the model.

Adding in the societal costs of the lost productivity of Americans developing illnesses from excessive sugar consumption, the total cost savings of the NSSRI policy amount to $ 160.88 billion over the lifetime of the population. adult.

These benefits are probably underestimated because the calculations were conservative. The study also found that even partial industry compliance with the policy can generate significant health and economic gains.

Reduce disparities

The researchers found that the INSS policy became profitable at six years and economical at nine. The policy could also narrow disparities, with the largest estimated health gains among black and Hispanic adults, and low-income, less-educated Americans – the populations that consume the most sugar due to inequitable systems.

Product reformulation efforts have been shown to be effective in reducing other harmful nutrients, such as trans fats and sodium.

The United States, however, lags behind other countries in implementing strict sugar reduction policies, with countries like the United Kingdom, Norway and Singapore leading the reformulation efforts. sugar.

The United States could yet become a leader in protecting its people from the dangers of excessive sugar consumption if the sugar reduction targets proposed by the NSSRI are met.

“The NSSRI policy is by far the most carefully designed and comprehensive, yet achievable, sugar reformulation initiative in the world,” Shangguan said.

Consumption of sugary foods and drinks is strongly linked to obesity and diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. More than two in five American adults are obese, one in two have diabetes or prediabetes, and nearly one in two have cardiovascular disease, with people in low-income groups disproportionately affected.

“Sugar is one of the most obvious additives in the food supply to be reduced to reasonable amounts,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, co-lead author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. .

“Our results suggest that it is time to implement a national program with voluntary sugar reduction targets, which can generate major health improvements, health disparities and health spending in less time. a decade, ”Mozaffarian said.

Primary funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. See it in full here.


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