New Brunswick

Study linking sugary drinks to deaths is a 'wake-up call'

It’s not surprising that sugary drinks are bad for our health, but a recent study from Tufts University in Boston claims that pop and sweetened juices may be killing us faster than we might think.

Tufts University study says 1,600 Canadians die from sugar-related deaths annually

A new study that shows pop and sweetened juices may be causing serious health problems, including death, at higher rates than previously thought should be a "wake-up call" for many New Brunswickers.

The recent study from Tufts University in Boston claims that sugary may be killing us faster than we might think. 

Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health, said consumption levels of sugary drinks consumption is a "significant factor"in the causes of serious illness and death in the province. (CBC)
Globally there were 184,000 deaths linked to the consumption of sugary drinks in 2010, in Canada there are 1,600 deaths per year that are attributed to sugary drinks.

Lesley James, a senior health policy analyst with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, says she isn't surprised by the numbers in the study.

"I really hope it's a wake-up call for Canadians and really raise awareness about sugar, in particular sugar in liquid form," she said.

The beverages considered in the study had a wide range. Everything from soda to juices,sports and energy drinks to  sweetened teas and coffees and even homemade sweetened beverages.

- Dr. Eilish Cleary

The study didn't however include 100 per cent fruit juice.

"The Heart and Stroke Foundation does consider it to be a sugary drink because of the extremely high sugar content," said James.

"The results likely would have been much higher and more pronounced because Canadians are among the highest juice drinkers in the world."

Dr.Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health, says sugary drinks are a contributing factor to most health problems in New Brunswick. 

"I can say that unhealthy food and drink, especially sugary drinks consumption, is a significant factor in all the top causes of death in this province like cancer, heart disease and strokes," Cleary said.

Sports drinks are often marketed as being healthy and necessary, but they contain more sugar than we might think. (Jon Elswick/Associated Press)
James says many people are unaware of the sugar content in what they are drinking.

"A lot of this comes down to marketing the food industry is really able to use clever tactics and claims to make us believe what we are consuming is healthy or necessary," she said.

For instance, energy drinks and sports drinks are marketed towards athletes, but James says only two per cent of people really exert enough energy to require those beverages.  

"Culturally, we think it's appropriate and in actuality they're not healthy and they're putting themselves at risks by drinking these," she says.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is encouraging healthy public policy with their recommendations, which vary from restrictions on food and beverage marketing to children, manufacturors placing a levy on sugary drinks, disallowing free refills and standardizing portion sizes and health warnings on sugary drinks.


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