ROLE OF SUGAR – SWEETENED BEVERAGES IN INCREASING
NON – COMMUNICABLE DISEASES IN PAKISTAN
SUGAR – SWEETENED BEVERAGES:
Sugar – sweetened beverages (SSBs) are drinks with added sugar. These have high sugar content and
very less or no nutritional value. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) less than 25g
of added sugar should be utilized per day. The main issue is the high intake in calories. Some of the
types of sugar sweetened beverages with sugar and calorie contents of each product is given below:
SSBs EXAMPLES CALORIE
SOFT DRINKS Coca Cola, Mountain
150 – 200 kcal 8 – 11 teaspoons
SPORTS DRINKS Gatorade, Power –
100 kcal 17 – 18 teaspoons
Arizona, Lipton 80 kcal 11 – 12 teaspoons
Bottled Iced Coffees,
Coffee Drinks with
50 kcal 3 teaspoons
ENERGY DRINKS Monster, Red Bull 200 kcal 9 – 10 teaspoons
FRUIT JUICES / POUCH Tetra pack juices 110 kcal 6 teaspoons
NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES (NCDs):
A non – communicable disease is a disease that is not transmissible directly from one person to another.
Some of the non – communicable diseases (NCDs) that are caused due to the high intake of sugar
content in diet (especially sugar – sweetened beverages) are mentioned below.
Diabetes is one of the non – communicable diseases caused due to the usage of sugar (especially found
in sweetened beverages). Sugar aids in the development of high blood sugar levels and belly fat. This
in turn leads to insulin resistance. It is a condition in which the muscles, cells and liver starts resisting
the signal that is given out by insulin hormone to grab glucose out of the bloodstream and place it into
the cells. This process leads the individual towards diabetes.
Increased sugar content in blood also leads to increased appetite and obesity. Due to this the narrowing
of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) starts causing cardiovascular diseases. The risk factor for an individual
increases up to 23 % if he/she consumes sugar drinks on daily basis.
The proliferation of cancer cells has significant linkage with sugar intake. Cancer cells multiply at
reckless rates. This multiplying requires high amount of energy. Glucose is a starting material required
for the generation of ATP (responsible for providing energy) which boosts up the reaction rates
significantly. Also, the cancer cells require some amount of nutrients such as amino acids and fats (sugar
content) for its production.
Hypertension is also caused by the intake of sugar (found in sweetened drinks in excessive quantity).
This is because the sugar content makes an individual obese which results in high blood pressure.
Mitigation plan is a set of steps that are helpful in identifying and implementing actions to reduce or
eliminate health losses due to any type of hazard. There are many plans that can be helpful in eliminating
or reducing the effects caused by the utilization of sugar – sweetened beverages. The steps are being
discussed keeping particularly Pakistan in view.
1. Ban on SSBs:
Imposing a ban on sugar – sweetened products is not a feasible mitigation plan. This is because
approximately, there are 291,000 employees worldwide working in the beverages industry.
The economic gains of these industries vary from 1.5 – 1.8 trillion dollars per year. These
industries are running 291,000 houses round the globe and boosts the economic conditions of
many countries. If a country like Pakistan imposes a ban, there will be more job insecurity
among the community. Also, these products are beneficial in some cases because they are
responsible for fulfilling the fluid and nutrient requirements.
2. Alternative products:
This is workable only if new products are launched on country level containing less sugar
content. It includes the usage of fresh fruit juices, honey water, cardamom water, low fat milk
etc. If these are available and have lower price than these can surely be used as sugar –
sweetened beverages. These industries can be beneficial in increasing the health condition and
job security in Pakistan.
3. High taxation:
Imposing tax on sugar – sweetened drinks cannot give the required results i.e., the less
consumption of SSBs. This is because individuals can get behavioural addiction or chemical
addiction with sugar. So, it becomes difficult for the people to go towards the withdrawal due
to high tax.
4. Policy making:
There should be a comprehensive policy on the domestic level use of sugar – sweetened
beverages. A small amount to be sold in Pakistan and most of the product to be exported out
of the country. This can result in less usage of product and on the other hand can enhance the
foreign exchange coming to the country.
Awareness is the most important and feasible mitigation step. This is because only being
aware can bring about the positive change in an individual. The awareness session can be
arranged on school and community level about the possible effects of sugar – sweetened
beverages. Another way is to make a standard labelling pattern of such products that are
followed by all the industries in order to make it easier for people to understand the ingredients.
No food product or beverage in this world is created to cause harm to human health. Rather, sugar –
sweetened beverages have several functions that benefit the health at large. They fulfil the fluid
requirement and nutrient requirements (proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals) of the body.
The adverse health effects are caused by such products in only those people who excessively consume
the same or those people who are healthy (have no deficiency) but still choose to consume sugar –
Due to the wrong usage of the product by people the product cannot be termed as dangerous or cannot
be banned from production. These products and their industries provide health benefits, job security
and strengthens the economy of a country.
This is why the production of these products should continue to take place, but the awareness campaign
needs to be conducted. People need to understand their nutritional requirements and the correct usage
of these beverages. Awareness campaign should be in the form of small messages in a way that will not
disturb the marketing of these beverages and in turn giving the full information about the tolerable
amount and the person eligible for its usage.
If these conclusions are kept in mind and sensible actions are taken, only then the non – communicable
diseases relating to sugar – sweetened beverages can be defeated at large.
1. Sugar – Sweetened Beverages
2. Sugar – Sweetened Beverages
3. What to know about diet and diabetes?
4. What to know about insulin resistance?
5. Sugar drinks and risk for cardiovascular disease
6. Sugar and cancer – what you need to know
7. Eating with high blood pressure: foods and drinks to avoid
8. 10 signs you might have a sugar addiction
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alize Shahid is a student of BS. Human Nutrition at Khwaja Fareed University, Rahim
Yar Khan. She has arranged different workshops for spreading awareness regarding
different elements of nutrition.