What are consumers around the world drinking, and how much are they drinking?
Not surprisingly, these simple questions don’t elicit simple answers. A study published in PLOS ONE revealed diversity in existing intakes and trends in global consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and milk. Several factors may be impacting the diversity, with geographic location leading the pack.
“Geographic location was the most critical factor in the varying consumption levels for these beverages," said Dariush Mozaffarian, corresponding author, chair of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group, and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
The researchers assessed data from 195 dietary surveys, representing more than half of the world’s population, and also incorporated food availability data in 187 countries between 1990 and 2010. Statistical analyses determined the average consumption levels of sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and milk in 1990 and 2010 among men and women ages 20 years and older.
Highest sugar-sweetened beverage intake in the Americas, particularly in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as sodas, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, sweetened iced teas, and homemade sugary beverages such as frescas.
Highest fruit juice intake was in Australasia and highest milk intake in Northern Europe.
Researchers found men aged 20 to 39 years consumed the most sugar-sweetened beverages—an average of 1.04 8-oz servings per day. In comparison, women aged 60 years and older had the lowest consumption, with 0.34 servings per day.
Fruit juice consumption was highest among women aged 20 to 39 years, who consumed 0.23 8-oz servings per day. On average, fruit juice consumption increased with country income level; rates were the highest in high-income countries and lowest in low-income countries. In the United States, adults consumed about 0.36 servings of fruit juice per day, the 21st highest consumption out of 187 countries.
Not surprisingly, women aged 60 years and older consumed the most milk across the globe. Milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D—two nutrients that can help prevent osteoporosis, a leading health risk for post-menopausal women, as noted in INSIDER’s Digital Issue, “The Modern Woman." The research found women aged 60 years and older consumed 0.68 8-oz servings per day. Men aged 20 to 39 years consumed 0.51 servings of milk per day.
Adults in Sweden and Iceland consumed the most milk at 1.6 servings per day, and adults in Finland also consumed more than 1.3 servings per day. In the United States, adults consumed on average 0.69 servings per day, the 64th highest consumption out of 187 countries.
The study could be beneficial for manufacturers looking to reduce sugar or implement other health-related component into beverages. Speaking on the results regarding sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, Mozaffarian said, “Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was very high in the Caribbean and Mexico, where both commercial and homemade sugary drinks are widely consumed. With this data, we can begin to establish and improve policies that promote the consumption of beverages low in sugar within specific countries, which may be more effective than one-size-fits-all interventions."