Sticker shock: Canadians projected to pay a steep price for sugary beverages
10 February 2017
According to new research commissioned by leading health organizations Canadians are consuming high amounts of sugary drinks and if this continues, the consequences to our health and the healthcare system will be devastating. Most troubling, young people drink the largest amount of sugary beverages.
The research from the University of Waterloo reveals that sugary drink consumption is projected to result in over 63,000 deaths and cost the healthcare system more than $50 billion over the next 25 years. It is estimated that sugary drink consumption in Canada will be responsible for:
- More than 1 million cases of overweight and more than 3 million cases of obesity
- Almost 1 million cases of type 2 diabetes
- Almost 300,000 Canadians with ischemic heart disease
- More than 100,000 cases of cancer
- Almost 40,000 strokes
- Almost 2.2 million disability-adjusted life years (the number of years of healthy life lost due to ill health, disability or early death.)
In 2015 Canadians purchased an average of 444ml of sugary drinks per day. That is more than the equivalent of one can of pop per person, per day, every day. The average youth drinks 578 ml of sugary drinks each day which can contain up to 16 teaspoons or 64 grams of sugar. This puts them well over the recommended daily sugar maximum of no more than 10% of total daily calories.
Although pop sales have been decreasing over the years, the research uncovered staggering growth in sales of newer products that offset these reductions:
- Energy drinks +638%
- Sweetened coffees +579%
- Flavoured water +527%
- Drinkable yogurt +283%
- Sweetened teas +36%
- Flavoured milk +21%
- Sports drinks +4%.
Consuming too much sugar is a significant risk factor for overweight and obesity and several chronic diseases. Overconsumption of sugary drinks is an independent risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes regardless of weight status. Tackling the health effects of sugary drinks requires a comprehensive approach including ensuring access to safe and free water, restricting food and beverage marketing to children, public education, better food labelling, revisions to Canada’s Food Guide, and levers to make unhealthy choices less attractive and healthy choices more affordable.
The research was commissioned by Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Diabetes Association, Childhood Obesity Foundation, Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada, and Heart & Stroke. The research was carried out at the University of Waterloo by Amanda C. Jones, Dr. J. Lennert Veerman and Dr. David Hammond. The study included an analysis of national data on sugary drink sales and consumption in Canada, and projected the health and economic impact of sugary drinks in Canada.
A summary of the research is available online.
“The health and economic burden from sugary drinks in Canada is alarming. Cutting back on sugary drinks is one of the best ways to reduce excess calorie intake and to maintain a healthy body weight.”
– Dr. David Hammond, Associate Professor, School of Public Health & Health Systems, University of Waterloo.
“Over the next 25 years, almost one million people will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as a result of sugary drink consumption. The relentless rise of this disease does not have to be a foregone conclusion as we make every effort to end diabetes through education and policy changes.”
– Dr. Jan Hux, Chief Science Officer, Canadian Diabetes Association
“Sugary drinks have almost no health benefits and they are a significant driver of chronic disease and obesity. It is troubling that our youth are the biggest consumers and in many Indigenous communities with water insecurity, sugary drinks are the only affordable option. Canadians should be hydrating with water and low-fat plain milk as the heathiest choices, but too often these options are not the most accessible. We need to take action now to avoid more devastating health consequences.”
– Mary Lewis, VP, Research, Advocacy and Health Promotion, Heart & Stroke
“Sugary drinks are the single largest contributor of sugar in the average Canadian diet. Excess sugar intake is directly linked to excess weight which increases the risk of at least 11 different cancers. Eating a healthy diet, with lots of vegetables and fruit, lots of fibre and little fat and sugar, helps maintain a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of cancer.”
– Robert Nuttall, Assistant Director, Health Policy, Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.