Cut Sugar to Save Lives?

Cutting 20 percent of sugar from packaged foods and 40 percent from beverages could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events (such as strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests), 490,000 cardiovascular deaths, and 750,000 diabetes cases in the U.S. over the lifetime of the adult population, reports a study published in Circulation.

A Harvard Medical School researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), along with researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and 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 U.S. National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI).

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.

This February, NSSRI finalized the policy with the goal of industry voluntarily committing to gradually reformulate their sugary products.

The researchers hope their model will build consensus on the need for a national-sugar reformulation policy in the U.S.

“We hope that this study will help push the reformulation initiative forward in the next few years,” said Siyi Shangguan, 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,” Shangguan said.

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

“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,” Mozaffarian said.

Teusday, January 2, 2024


Harvard Medical School

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