Role of Sugar-sweetened Beverages in increasing Non communicable diseases in Pakistan  

Name: Asma Imran,

Role of Sugar-sweetened Beverages in increasing Non communicable diseases in Pakistan


Background information:

Non Communicable disease.

Non communicable diseases are combination of genetic, environmental, physiological factors, and are tend to be of long duration and known as chronic disease. For example: Diabetes, Asthma, Chronic Kidney Disease, Chronic Lung Disease, Heart disease. These are responsible for nearly 70% deaths worldwide. These occur in low and middle income countries. The factors which include are: tobacco use, physical inactivity, use of alcohol and unhealthy diets. Government should take action to reduce the burden of Non communicable disease.

Sugar-Sweetened beverages.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are sugar added drinks: soft drinks, sports drinks, flavored drinks. They have no nutritional values and calories present in drinks and, can lead to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes. Almost 40% Pakistani children are stunted and nearly 41% adults are obese and this is due to consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. According to a study during 2015, RS 428 B annually is spent on obesity related disease. This is due to increase consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

NCD link with sugar-sweetened beverages:

  • Increaser sugar consumption is the leading cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver and kidney damage and heart disease.
  • The WHO guideline tells us that the added sugar should not constitute more than 10% of individual daily calories. Children and women should consume less than 5 % of added sugars.
  • As sugary drinks are in liquid form liver tends to absorbs more liquid than solid and does not effectively release it. The surplus is stored in the form of fat. This can lead to fatty liver and increase risk for diabetes.
  • Sugary drinks lead to under nutrition as some Asian countries feed infants with sugary weaning foods which can increase under nutrition and stunting. Infants with stunting face higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Know before you buy:

Nearly 11% of calories come from sugary drinks. An average adult will need to moderate walk for 25 min to burn off the calories from 12 ounce soda can. Some drinks claims to be packed of healthy ingredient. However, they are loaded with packs of sugar. We should be aware of this mendacity.


  • Increasing the tax on sugar-sweetened beverage is an evidence base first step to reduce the NCDs. More than 40 countries have adopted this and they saw a reduction in obesity related disease.
  • Pakistan has low tax in comparison to other countries like India and Saudi Arabia. It is a win-win solution for government as tax will reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages while increasing treasure to fund other government services.
  • The associated poor health outcomes link with consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage declined since 2000. But, they have leveled off more recently.
  • The effectiveness of policies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage may differ. Some evidence as increase tax is strong and some evidence is emerging as healthy beverage alternative.
  • Implementation of these policies may face some clash, however they may increase political feasibility.
  • A single policy cannot reduce the sugar-sweetened beverage consumption however, changing market and consumption trends, dynamic policies and innovative and emerging science can make a difference.
  • Use dull or plain packaging that does not appeal children and restrict advertisement on children TV.

Who is accountable for reduction in sugar consumption?

Every individual play a role in promotion for reduction in sugary intake such as government, private sector, civil society. The responsibility starts from yourself because we are well aware of harms and benefits of foods we consume.

We can make some interventions to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage such as:

  • Remove any machine that is selling soft drink;
  • Provision of safe drinking water;
  • Educate local public through social marketing campaigns;
  • Reduce sugar content of sugar-sweetened beverages through reformulation in food industry;
  • Restrict the advertisement of Sugar-sweetened beverages on social media;
  • Increase the tax on Sugar-sweetened beverage.

Here are healthy alternatives of sugary drinks. If you cannot switch, start slowly.

  • Add slices of fresh fruits in water, such as cucumber, lemon and mint.
  • Make unsweetened  iced tea  with your favorite flavor of herbal tea bags.
  • Add lemon or orange juice to plain water.
  • Make fresh juice at home with healthy fusion of fruits.