Global analysis of beverage consumption reveals key national differences

By Nathan Gray

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Global analysis of beverage consumption reveals key national differences
New data on beverage intakes for 187 countries has revealed significant differences in current consumption levels and historic trends for sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and milk, say researchers.

The results of the global analysis, published in PLOS ONE​, finds that consumption of all three drinks categories is lowest in East Asia, while intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is highest in the Caribbean where young (ages 20-39) were found to have the highest average consumption of 3.4 servings of sweetened beverages per day.

Overall, younger adults consumed the highest levels of sugar-sweetened beverages, while older adults consumed more milk, said the team – led by senior author Professor Dariush Mozaffarian of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

In addition to revealing that the Caribbean and Latin America has the highest intakes of sugary drinks the results of the study showed intakes of fruit juice consumption was highest in Australia and New Zealand, while milk intake was highest in Central Latin America and parts of Europe.

"Our analysis highlights the enormous spectrum of beverage intakes worldwide, by country, age and sex,”​ said Dr Gitanjali Singh, first author of the study. “While we know that different beverages substantially impact health, comprehensive and detailed estimates of intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and milk at the global, regional and national levels by age and sex had not been available until this study."

Indeed, of the existing data published on beverage consumption in countries worldwide, no study has yet assessed global geographic, age, or time trends comprehensively such that both within- and between-country comparisons can be made, said the authors.

Singh said the results identify important variation in different international subgroups, can inform efforts to measure the impact on global health and aid in developing targeted health-oriented nutrition policies for specific populations.

"With this data, we can begin to establish and improve policies that promote the consumption of beverages low in sugar within specific countries, which may be more effective than one-size-fits-all interventions,”​ added Mozaffarian.

Key findings
Consumption of non-alcoholic caloric beverages in 187 countries worldwide. (Credit: PLOS ONE)

The team analysed data from 195 dietary surveys, representing over half of the world's population, and also incorporated food availability data in 187 countries between 1990 and 2010.

Taking into account differences in these sources of data, the team then performed statistical analyses to determine the average consumption levels of sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and milk in 1990 and 2010 in men and women in seven age groups in the 187 countries.

When looking at consumption data for 2010, the team found major variation by region, and age - with higher intake of sugary drinks in younger adults and higher intake of milk in older adults.

Fruit juice consumption was highest in women aged between 20 and 39, said the team , adding that in general fruit juice consumption increased with country income level; rates were the highest in high-income countries and lowest in low-income countries.

Across the 187 countries surveyed, Trinidad and Tobago had the highest average consumption of SSBs, at 2.5 servings per day – while adults in Barbados, Suriname, Cuba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, and Grenada also all drank over two servings per day of SSBs.

China had the lowest levels of SSB consumption with 0.06 servings per day, while SSB intake levels in North Korea and Azerbaijan were similarly low, said Singh and her colleagues – who noted that further research efforts, which include data from children, are now underway.

Source: PLoS One
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124845
“Global, Regional, and National Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Fruit Juices, and Milk: A Systematic Assessment of Beverage Intake in 187 Countries”
Authors: Gitanjali M. Singh, Renata Micha, et al

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