According to a Circulation study, cutting 20% of sugar in packaged foods and 40% in beverages could help prevent 2.48 Million cardiovascular events, 490,000. cardiovascular deaths, and 750,000 cases of diabetes in the U.S.
The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy and Harvard T.H. were the sites of a team of researchers. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOH), Chan School of Public Health and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene created a model to quantify and simulate the health, economic and equity impacts of a sugar reduction policy. NSSRI is a collaboration of more than 100 health organizations from across the country. In 2018, the NSSRI released draft targets for sugar reduction in packaged food and beverages. NSSRI published draft sugar reduction targets for packaged food and beverages in 15 categories. The policy was finalized by the NYC DOH in February 2018.
However, implementing a national strategy will require government support. This will be to ensure that companies are meeting the targets and reporting on progress. They hope the model will bring about consensus regarding the need to have a national-sugar policy in the US. Siyi Shangguan MD MPH, the study’s lead author, and MGH attending doctor, said, “We hope that this study will help push the reformulation initiative forward in the next few years,” says Siyi Shangguan, MD, MPH, lead author and attending physician at MGH. “Reducing the sugar content of commercially prepared foods and beverages will have a larger impact on the health of Americans than other initiatives to cut sugar, such as imposing a sugar tax, labeling added sugar content, or banning sugary drinks in schools.”
According to the model, the U.S. could see savings of $4.28 billion and $118.04 million in healthcare costs over the next ten years. Add to that the societal cost of Americans dying from obesity, the NSSRI policies total cost savings rises to $160.88billion over the lifetime of the adult population. Since the calculations were conservative, these benefits could be underestimated. A study showed that even partial compliance could lead to significant economic and health gains.
The NSSRI policy was cost-effective after six years, and cost-saving after nine years. The policy could also reduce disparities, with the greatest estimated health gains among Black and Hispanic adults, and Americans with lower income and less education–populations that consume the most sugar as a historical consequence of inequitable systems.
It has been proven that product reformulation can reduce other harmful nutrients like trans fats, sodium, and cholesterol. The U.S. however is behind other countries in adopting strong sugar-reduction strategies. Other countries, such as the UK and Norway, are leading sugar-reformulation efforts. If the NSSRI’s proposed sugar reduction targets are met, the US might be able to lead in protecting its population from the dangers of excess sugar consumption. Shangguan states that “The NSSRI policy is by far the most carefully designed and comprehensive, yet achievable, sugar-reformulation initiative in the world.”
Sugary foods and drinks are strongly associated with obesity and the leading cause for death in the U.S., along with diabetes and heart disease.
Dariush Mozafari, MD, PhD, co-senior writer and dean of Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, says that sugar is an obvious addition to the food supply and must be reduced to a reasonable level. “Our findings suggest it’s time to implement a national program with voluntary sugar reduction targets, which can generate major improvements in health, health disparities, and healthcare spending in less than a decade.”