ROLE OF SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGES FOR INCREASING
NON COMMUNICABLE DISEASES IN PAKISTAN
The consumption of sugar sweetened beverages increases in our society very rapidly especially
among the youngsters, which leads to many hazardous effects on their health and are the major
reason behind non communicable diseases.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data around 2,200 individuals die every year in
Pakistan due to serious non-communicable diseases caused by heavy intake of sugar.
So let’s try to understand what these ssbs (sugar sweetened beverages), how it affects your
body and how the government can play its role to limit its consumption.
SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGES
Ssbs (Sugar sweetened beverages) are any liquid drink that is sweetened with any form of
sugar, like sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey or molasses. Examples of ssbs are
included but not limited to,
● Regular sodas(coke, Pepsi, due etc)
● Sports drinks (Gatorade etc)
● Energy drinks (sting, red bull etc)
● Fruit drinks and juices (slice, fruita vitals)
● Pre mixed coffee and teas etc
EFFECTS OF SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGES ON HEALTH
Sugar can affect your body adversely if taken in excess amounts, liquid sugar is especially
more harmful. Research shows that getting sugar in liquid form is much worse than getting it
from solid food. This is why high sugar beverages like soda are among the worst things you can
put into your body.
These are some Health concerns related to ssbs,
Weight gain is the major concern that is associated with sugar sweetened beverages, because
they just add up to your calorie intake without making you feel full.
It’s because these sugary drinks usually contain large amounts of fructose and fructose does
not lower the hunger hormone ghrelin or stimulate fullness in the same way as glucose, the
sugar which forms after digestion of the starchy foods.
Studies show that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages consistently gain more weight
than people who don’t, and weight gain itself is associated with many diseases.
INSULIN RESISTANCE AND TYPE 2 DIABETES
When you have sugary drinks consistently, the cells of your body become resistant or less
sensitive to insulin (the Hormone which drive glucose from bloodstream to cell) as a result
pancreas have to produce more insulin to control glucose level in your body and insulin level
spike in your bloodstream.This condition is known as insulin resistance.
● Animal studies demonstrate that excess fructose causes insulin resistance and
chronically elevated insulin levels.
● One study in healthy, young men found that moderate intake of fructose increased
insulin resistance in the liver
This insulin resistance is the major factor that lead to type 2 diabetes that is characterized by
the elevated blood sugar level, that’s why various studies linked ssbs with type 2 diabetes
SSBS AND HEART DISEASES
Cardiac health is another concern that is associated with ssbs.
Studies show that Drinking 12 ounces of sugary beverages more than once a day may lower
“good” cholesterol and increase triglycerides, fat in the blood that can lead to heart disease.
Obesity and hyperglycemia caused by ssbs also affect heart health.
HIGH RISK OF CANCER
Cancer is usually associated with other chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart
diseases and that’s why it’s not surprising that ssbs are linked to increased risk of cancer.
One study shows that among the 60,000 adults those who drank 2 or more sugary sodas per
week were 87% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who did not drink soda.
Another studies shows that Postmenopausal women who drink a lot of sugary soda may also be
at greater risk for endometrial cancer, or cancer of the inner lining of the uterus.
NONALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE
As we discussed earlier, ssbs contain large amounts of fructose that can only be metabolized by
the liver as compared to glucose that can be metabolized by every cell in your body, so when
you consume a lot of fructose your liver becomes overloaded and turns fructose into fat. Some
of these fats move to blood as triglycerides but some of these remain in the liver and lead to
nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with the passage of time.
Gout is a painful form of arthritis. When your body has extra uric acid, sharp crystals may form
in the big toe or other joints, causing episodes of swelling and pain called gout attacks.
When you drink high fructose corn syrup-sweetened beverages,the body breaks down fructose
into chemical compounds called purines, which further break down into uric acid—the
substance that forms painful crystals in the joints and causes gout.
Many large observational studies have shown strong relation between sugar-sweetened drinks
Furthermore , long-term studies linked sugary soda to a 75% increased risk of gout in women
and an almost 50% increased risk in men
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking
abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common
cause of dementia.
According to one study, any gradual increase in blood sugar is strongly related with an
increased risk of dementia.
To put it simply, the higher your blood sugar, the higher your risk of dementia.
By producing rapid spikes of blood sugar, ssbs are linked with increased risk of dementia
The researchers found that in the 2,664 individuals included in the study, those who consumed
one to seven servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per week were 1.91 times more likely to
develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who consumed no sugar-sweetened beverages.
SSBS AND DENTAL HEALTH
Everyone has harmful germs in their mouths that depend on the sugars we consume. These
bacteria get energy from the sugar, but in the process produce acid which can damage teeth by
causing cavities to form or erosion to occur.
SSBS has a lot of these sugar that’s why they are also not good for your dental health.
SSBS AND ADDICTION
In rats, sugar binging may cause dopamine release in the brain, giving a feeling of pleasure.
Eating sugar may have similar effects in certain people, as your brain is built in to come up with
activities that release dopamine.
Indeed there are numerous studies which suggest that sugar affects your brain like hard drugs.
For people who already suffer from some kind of addiction, sugar may cause reward-seeking
behavior known as food addiction.
Studies in rats demonstrate that sugar can be physically addictive.
Although it is very difficult to prove addiction in humans , many individuals consume sugary
drinks in a pattern that is common for addictive, abusive substances.
REGULATION OF SSBS BY GOVERNMENT
There is convincing evidence that consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is responsible for
many communicable diseases especially when they are taken frequently or in large portions.
Ssbs do this by promoting excess energy intake relative to energy expenditure.
The consumption of sugar sweetened drinks has rapidly increased in many parts of the world,
especially in low- and middle-income countries, contributing to rising rates of overweight and
A comprehensive package of policies is needed to limit the availability, affordability and
acceptability of sugar sweetened drinks including
EDUCATION AND COUNSELING
Providing awareness to the public about ssbs effects on health, in addition to counseling, there
has been an increasing effort to provide consumers with more information about the nutritional
composition of what they are consuming. Starting with labeling ingredients and calories on food
packages, all beverages sold in individual containers contain calorie information, as well as
information about fats and sugars in the Nutrition Facts panel.
Advertisements and marketing directly impact on consumer demand so certain restrictions
should be applied onto the marketing of unhealthy food including ssbs.
TAXES ON SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES
Price is one of the most important factors influencing food purchasing decisions.
WHO has recommended countries to apply price policies – or taxes – that increase the retail
price of SSBs by at least 20 per cent. Hoping that this step will contribute to improved diets (and
health) by shifting consumer demand away from SSBs towards healthier options, including
On 26 may 2021 International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has urged authorities in Pakistan to
double the taxes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) in forthcoming budget to reduce the
burden of diabetes on individuals and families affected by diabetes and to do more to prevent
diabetes in the population.
On 6 June 2021 Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) also requested the government
to impose 20 percent tax on sugar sweetened beverages as its high consumption was one of
the major causes of obesity and non-communicable diseases.
Pakistan ranked 9th out of 188 countries in terms of obesity, according to the Global Burden of
Disease study of 2014. The lack of awareness exacerbates the situation as the Pakistani
masses have little education about nutrition and rely on myths and old wives’ tales to identify
what is ‘healthy’. An increase in the cost of sugary drinks has the potential to create incentives
for producers to give healthier alternatives at cheaper prices, if a policy is properly planned and
Many evidence-based studies linked ssbs to weight gain and many other health issues,
especially its high consumption among children and young adults. This is an alarming situation
which needs to be addressed by our policy makers. They need to make such policies that limit
ssbs consumption and promote the healthier options.