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An estimated 184,000 adults worldwide die each year as a result of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a new study from Tufts University.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, is the first detailed effort to report the effects of sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sweetened ice teas, and other sugary drinks on global death patterns. Fruit juices were not included in the analysis. Researchers reviewed 62 dietary surveys involving more than 600,000 individuals in 51 countries between 1980 and 2010. They found consumption of sugary drinks accounted for 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 from cardiovascular disease, and 6,450 from cancer.

The death toll varied widely from country to country, according to the report. Among Japanese adults over 65 years old, for instance, consuming sugary beverages accounted for less than 1 percent of deaths. It was most pronounced in Mexico, where homemade frescas are a popular tradition. There, some 30 percent of deaths among adults under 45 were attributed to sugary drinks, a total of 405 deaths per million adults each year. The U.S. ranked second overall in death rate, with 125 deaths per million adults each year — about 25,000 deaths annually.

“There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DPH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University and senior author of the study.

Overconsumption of sugar — in any form — can have significant health consequences. For more on our nation’s sugar addiction and how to find alternatives in your own diet, see “Sugar Breakdown,” in our July/August 2006 issue.

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