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May 08, 2019

New Sugar Labels to Prevent 1 Million Cases of Heart Disease and Diabetes

Highlighting added sugars for consumers will save both lives and money over the next 20 years.

New sugar label requirements could prevent nearly one million cases of heart disease and diabetes over the next twenty years, finds a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The study also suggests sugar labels will save $31 billion in health care costs and nearly $62 billion in lost productivity by the year 2037.

Using the US IMPACT Food Policy simulation model, this study estimated the impact of new sugar label requirements over a 20-year period. Its goal was to estimate how new labeling policies might improve public health and reduce health care spending.

Labeling policies were passed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May of 2016, requiring labeling of added sugar content on all packaged foods and beverages. According to authors, it was the first major revision to nutrition facts label in the United States since 1993 and was part of a national strategy to reduce excess sugar consumption.

It’s estimated that Americans consume more than 15% of their total calories from added sugars. Excess consumption of added sugars puts individuals at increased risk for things like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The new labels highlight how much added sugar is in each packaged food or drink product, in hopes that consumers will make healthier choices. But how much impact will it have on our health?

To learn more, researchers analyzed national disease data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as national survey data from 2011–2014. Survey data was part of the NHANES study, which has collected data on the health and lifestyle of Americans since the 1960s. Researchers then applied data to the US IMPACT Food Policy model to estimate the potential changes of food labeling on public health and spending.

Based on simulations, experts estimate the sugar label will prevent 354,400 cases of heart disease and nearly 600,000 cases of type 2 diabetes between 2018 and 2037. It will also save $31 billion in health care costs or an estimated $62 billion from lost wages and productivity.

Additional analysis shows that the next step in policy updates, which would change the way added sugars are formulated, could have twice that impact.

Authors also note that by starting both policies now, there is more than an 80% chance that we would see a cost savings by the year 2023. That means it won’t take long to see results.

The key finding, according to authors, is the major impact that cutting back on added sugars could have on public health and spending. Further efforts to curb added sugars could have an even bigger impact, based on projections, greatly improving America’s health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

  • How can I cut out excess sugar in my diet?

  • Many studies (including earlier NHANES reports) show that sugary soft drinks contribute more calories to the U.S. diet than any other single food or beverage. One 12-oz can of soda contains about 40 to 50 grams of sugar, depending on the type of soda. That’s equivalent to 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Guzzle a 32-oz jumbo drink from a fast-food restaurant or convenience store, and you’ll take in 23 teaspoons of sugar. But sodas aren’t the only problem. Lots of hidden sugars find their way into processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

Featured Video

The average American today consumes three pounds of sugar a week. In the 1800s, the average American consumed two pounds of sugar a year!

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