Less Sugar in Packaged Foods Could Prevent Heart Disease

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Less Sugar in Packaged Foods Could Prevent Heart Disease According to a new health and economic model, it's imperative that manufacturers of packaged food products reduce the sugar added to their products. Reducing added sugar by 20% from foods and 40% from drinks could prevent 2.48 million strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and other cardiovascular disease problems. The study, published in Circulation, also concludes that 490,000 cardiovascular deaths and 750,000 diabetes cases in the U.S. could be prevented by reducing sugar content in products. The researchers, from the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene created a model to simulate the impacts of policy proposed by an organization called NSSRI, an initiative aimed at reducing the sugar content of sugary products. NSSRI, the U.S. National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative, finalized the policy this February. Their goal is to get sugar giants in the industry to reformulate their products. However, implementing a national policy would require government support to monitor and regulate companies as they work toward the targets of sugar reduction. The researchers hope to build a consensus and "push the reformulation initiative forward in the next few years," according to Siyi Shangguan, MD, MPH. show that it would be healthier and better to put less sugar in products. The U.S. could expect to save $4.28 million in healthcare costs, and $118.04 billion over the lifetime of the current population ages 25 to 79, according to the researchers' model. Even more money could be saved with the societal costs of lost productivity from Americans developing diseases from excessive sugar consumption averted. The policy would become cost-effective at six years and cost-saving at nine years. Previous product reformation efforts have been successful in reducing other harmful nutrients such as trans fat and sodium. However, the U.S. lags behind other countries in sugar-formulation efforts, while the UK, Norway, and Singapore are taking the lead on sugar-reformulation efforts. Consumption of sugary packaged foods and beverages is strongly linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of mortality in the U.S. Another scientist participating in the study, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, says that sugar is one of the "most obvious additives" in the food supply which should be reduced to reasonable amounts. The findings suggest that it is "time to implement a national program" in order to meet sugar reduction targets, which can generate major improvements in the health of the population.

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