Dietary survey data shows differences based on region and age, say Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy researchers.
The decision to reach for a sugary beverage is heavily influenced by where you live, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy researchers report in a new study published October 3 in the journal Nature Communications. While an analysis of the Global Dietary Database for the years 1990, 2005, and 2018 found overall consumption of sweetened drinks increased—by nearly 16% worldwide over the 28-year period studied—regional intake widely varied.
Sugary drinks are a public health concern because they have been widely associated with obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, which are among the leading causes of death and years lost to disability globally. Many national guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 5 to 10% of daily calories, and because sodas add no nutritional value, some countries tax their consumption to help their residents meet this goal.
The study is the latest snapshot of how adults in 185 countries imbibe sugar-sweetened beverages, specifically: soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, punch, lemonade, and aguas frescas that contain over 50 calories per serving (8 ounces). Intakes varied widely by world region. For instance, in 2018, the average person consumed 2.7 servings of sugary drinks per week, but this ranged from 0.7 servings per week in South Asia to 7.8 servings per week in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Global intakes were observed to be higher in males versus females and in younger versus older people, but the role of education and rural/urban residency was influenced more by region of origin. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely among adults with higher versus lower education in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America/Caribbean, while the opposite was seen in Middle East/North Africa. Overall, some of the highest sugary drink intakes in the world were among urban, highly educated adults in Sub-Saharan Africa (12.4 servings per week) and in Latin America/the Caribbean (8.5 servings per week).
At the national level, the countries where people consumed the highest number of sugary drink servings per week included Mexico (8.9), Ethiopia (7.1), the United States (4.9), and Nigeria (4.9), compared to India, China, and Bangladesh (0.2 each).
“We were struck by the wide variations by world regions in 2018; that Latin America/Caribbean had the largest intakes at all time points despite an overall decrease overtime; and that Sub-Saharan Africa had the greatest increases across all time points,” says first author Laura Lara-Castor, a PhD candidate in the Nutrition Epidemiology and Data Science program at the Friedman School. “These results suggest that more work is needed, especially around successful interventions such as marketing regulations, food labeling, and soda taxes.”