Is “Big Soda” the New Tobacco Industry?

A recent report released by Harvard health researchers has connected the consumption of sugary soft drinks and sodas with as many as 180,000 deaths each year around the world, with 25,000 of those deaths occurring in America, making it the third highest country on the list.

According to the report, 133,000 of the deaths are related to diabetes, 44,000 come as a result of cardiovascular disease and 6,000 are cancer deaths. The researchers calculated the impact of obesity and diet-related deaths by measuring the quantities of sugary beverages consumed based on age and sex. Latin American and Caribbean countries had the most deaths from diabetes and East/Central Eurasia had the highest number of cardiovascular deaths. Mexico, where sugary drink consumption is the highest in the world, had 318 deaths per million adults directly related to their soda and sweetened beverage habits. reports that the American Beverage Association—representing companies including Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group—were quick to criticize the study’s findings in a similar fashion to how big tobacco companies pushed back against studies linking cigarette smoke to cancer. “This abstract, which is not peer-reviewed nor published in a way where its methodology can be fully evaluated, is more about sensationalism than science,” the ABA said in statement, “The researchers make a huge leap when they take beverage intake calculations from around the globe and allege that those beverages are the cause of deaths which the authors themselves acknowledge are due to chronic disease.”

“Big” soda companies have reportedly donated millions of dollars to non-profits and anti-obesity campaigns, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest, comparing the tactics to that of the tobacco industry. As well, companies including Coca-Cola have given money to the NAACP and, according to CSPI, “Last year, Miami Beach; Dayton, OH; and Ocean City, MD, all signed deals making Coke the “official soft drink” of those cities,” despite national efforts to decrease sugar consumption habits as a means to address the country’s obesity epidemic.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: JMR photography