Despite the progress made in several regions of the world in terms of nutrition, the consumption of sugary drinks remains a public health problem worldwide, warns a new study to which researchers from McMaster University contributed. Ontario.
Sugary drinks – obviously soft drinks, but also tea or coffee-based drinks, or even certain fruit juices – are associated with health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease , cancer and dental caries.
“It’s intriguing to see that [la consommation] has really increased in regions like Africa, said Professor Lana Vanderlee of the Institute on Nutrition and Functional Foods at Laval University. This tells me that the food industry is targeting a few countries where there is an opportunity to expand the market. It is a new health threat in countries where there are already several. »
Globally, the authors write, consumption of sugary drinks jumped 16% between 1990 and 2018. They noted a more marked increase between 1990 and 2005 than between 2005 and 2018.
It is in sub-Saharan Africa that the largest increase was measured during the period 1990-2018, as well as during the period 2005-2018. Consumption increased, then declined, in developed countries between 1990 and 2018, to settle in 2018 practically at the 1990 level.
In countries like Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia, more educated adults consumed an average of three more servings of sugary drinks per week in 2018 than less educated adults. In sub-Saharan Africa, more educated adults consumed almost five more servings per week, compared to two more servings in South Asia and one more serving in Latin America or the West Indies.
The Middle East and North Africa region is the only one where the consumption of more educated adults was lower than that of less educated adults.
Taxes as a solution?
“These findings are consistent with the ongoing nutritional and epidemiological transition globally, which disproportionately affects poorer countries,” the authors write. Furthermore, they indicate that it is necessary to accelerate strategies aimed at reducing the consumption of [boissons sucrées] to tackle this global health problem. »
The World Health Organization strongly recommends imposing taxes on sugary drinks to curb their consumption, the study recalls, but these measures face fierce opposition from food companies. Around 100 countries have adopted such taxes so far, but most of these measures were rolled out or updated after 2017.
“It’s difficult to think that a single measure will solve the problem in countries where sugary drinks are really part of the culture, where their consumption is really normalized,” said Ms.me Vanderlee.
When we see the food industry focusing on poor or developing countries, and when we see the ferocity with which it responds to measures to limit the sale of its products, we realize that it “adopts the same strategies as that of tobacco, said Mme Vanderlee. It is the same playbook “.
It is “worrying”, she continues, to talk about the “power of the food industry on a global scale”, especially since these companies are very powerful, whether politically or economically.
“The power in the hands of the food industry is a growing threat,” warned the researcher. We must be concerned [des résultats de cette étude], because it increases their power. »
The findings of this study were published by the scientific journal Nature Communications.