Around 300,000 people in the UK could avoid diabetes if the sugar in soft drinks was reduced by 40% over the next five years, according to a study in The Lancet
. This follows the news that more than 4 million people in the UK are thought to be diabetic
, costing the NHS £10bn per year.
Researchers at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry propose a nationwide strategy that sets targets for the food industry to reduce free sugars in soft drinks, similar to the programme already used to reduce salt in foods.
After five years, a 40% reduction in sugars added to soft drinks would lead to an average 38.4 fewer calories consumed every day. This would result in an average 1.2kg drop in body weight and reduce the number of overweight and obese individuals by 1% and 2.1%, respectively. Based on a statistical model, the researchers estimate that there would be 274,000 – 309,000 fewer cases of diabetes in the following 20 years.
For young people and those on a low income — groups with the highest sugar intake — the results would be even more pronounced. For adolescents aged 12–18 years, young adults aged 19–25 years and low-income households, energy intake would be reduced, respectively, by 72Â·7 kcal, 74Â·0 kcal and 48.8 kcal per day in the fifth year. Implementing a sugar tax would make the measure even more effective, say the researchers.
The researchers estimate that consumption of sugary soft drinks in the UK increased by 400 million litres between 2003 and 2013 and has been especially high since 2010. This trend has correlated with an increase in the average BMI to 27.2kg/m2.
 Ma Y, He FJ, Yin Y, et al. Gradual reduction of sugar in soft drinks without substitution as a strategy to reduce overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes: a modelling study. The Lancet. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00477-5
 Diabetes UK. 2016. Number of people with diabetes reaches over 4 million. 5 January 2016. Available from https://www.diabetes.org.uk/About_us/News/Number-of-people-with-diabetes-reaches-over-4-million/