Soda is sweet — but billions of dollars in savings is even sweeter.
When the Food and Drug Administration announced in 2016 that manufacturers would soon be required to disclose added-sugar amount on their nutrition labels, researchers at Tufts University set out to identify the provision’s potential impact on the overall health of American consumers.
The “validated” mathematical model showed a significant decrease in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes cases over the next 20 years, according to results published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
Americans get more than 300 calories of added sugar a day, with the largest single source being sugary drinks, followed by desserts such as cookies, ice cream and candy.
“The purpose of our study was to estimate the impact of the FDA’s added sugars label on reducing sugar intake and preventing diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Renata Micha, a nutritionist and policy professor at Tufts. “Our results indicate that timely implementation of the added sugars label could reduce consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars, which could then lead to an improvement in health and a reduction in health care spending.”
The researchers say between 2018 and 2037 the label would prevent more than 354,000 new cases of cardiovascular disease and 600,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes — translating to more than $31 billion in health care costs.
When the FDA ordered that trans fats be more clearly labeled, many food manufactures began reformulating their products to have fewer or no trans fats to meet new consumer demands, which Micha says “suggests that mandated labeling of added sugars content would stimulate the food industry to reduce sugar in their products.”
If this proves true, they anticipate an even greater impact from the added-sugar label, with as much as 700,000 fewer cases of heart disease and 1.2 million fewer diabetes diagnoses, coming to an estimated health care savings of over $57 billion.
“Our findings may be conservative and underestimate the full health and economic impacts. The model only evaluated health benefits and cost-savings from diabetes and cardiovascular disease outcomes,” says Micha, adding that the label mandate could have a positive impact on a variety of other health concerns.
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