Curtin University-led research has found that on any given day 22% of adults drink sugar-sweetened beverages and these soft drink drinkers are more likely to be men, younger adults, and the obese.
Lead author, Dr Christina Pollard, Curtin’s School of Public Health, says an increase in obesity over the past 30 years appears to have paralleled increases in the sugar-sweetened beverage market.
“With increasing overweight and obesity rates a key public health problem in Australia, our research sought to identify which population group consume the most sugary soft drink,” Dr Pollard says.
“Our study found that soft drinks (such as cola, lemonade, tonic or flavoured mineral waters), are more likely to be consumed by people who are obese, young adults, men, people with little interest in their health, and those who purchased a meal away from home.
“The average amount that a soft drink consumer drank was about 500ml per day which contains 55 grams of sugar. This makes up about 10% of the recommended energy intake for the average male.”
“The World Health Organization recommends restricting sugar intake to 25 to 50 grams a day meaning soft drink consumers have exceeded this recommendation even without accounting for sugar from food.”
Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with increased risk of weight gain, fatty liver disease, kidney function, visceral fat and other cardio-metabolic problems in adults and children.
“The first step to curbing consumption of soft drinks is to increase the awareness of their adverse health effects,” Dr Pollard says.
“We recommend health promotion interventions targeting younger adults, particularly males.”
The study used population-based health monitoring surveys conducted in Western Australia and South Australia. The findings reflect trends from other countries.
The research project was undertaken in collaboration with Flinders University and CSIRO Food and Nutrition Flagship in South Australia, the Cancer Council Western Australia and the Health Department in Western Australia.
Healthway funded Curtin University to undertake the research translation and the two surveys were funded by the Department of Health in Western Australia and South Australian Health, and the University of Adelaide.
The paper, titled Obesity, socio-demographic and attitudinal factors associated with sugar-sweetened beverage consumption: Australian evidence, has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.