Sodas, energy drinks and other sugary beverages have been under attack in recent years, as critics have questioned their effect on obesity and overall health.
The beverages category suffered another setback to its reputation after research published Monday in the journal Circulation found consumption of the drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths annually.
The research is not exactly a revelation since it was presented earlier in 2013 as an abstract at the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.
“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages," declared Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, in a press release announcing the research. “It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet."
The researchers estimated that in 2010 sugar-sweetened drinks may have caused 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 deaths from cancer.
Of the 20 most populous countries, the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages was found in Mexico, with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths), according to the release. The United States ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).
Roughly 76 percent of the estimated deaths affected people in low- or middle-income countries, the researchers found.
“There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages," Mozaffarian said, “and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year."
The American Beverage Association, the trade association in Washington, D.C. representing companies that make and distribute non-alcoholic beverages, responded to the study.
“America’s beverage companies are committed to being part of real solutions to public health challenges," the trade association said in a statement. “This study does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases and the authors themselves acknowledge that they are at best estimating effects of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption."