- Press Release Distribution

Globally, consumption of sugary drinks increased at least 16% since 1990

Dietary survey data shows differences based on region and age, say researchers at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University


The decision to reach for a sugary beverage is heavily influenced by where you live, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy researchers report in a new study published October 3 in the journal Nature Communications. While an analysis of the Global Dietary Database for the years 1990, 2005, and 2018 found overall consumption of sweetened drinks increased—by nearly 16% worldwide over the 28-year period studied—regional intake widely varied. 

Sugary drinks are a public health concern because they have been widely associated with obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, which are among the leading causes of death and years lost to disability globally. Many national guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 5 to 10% of daily calories, and because sodas add no nutritional value, some countries tax their consumption to help their residents meet this goal.

The study is the latest snapshot of how adults in 185 countries imbibe sugar-sweetened beverages, specifically: soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, punch, lemonade, and aguas frescas that contain over 50 calories per serving (8 ounces). Intakes varied widely by world region. For instance, in 2018, the average person consumed 2.7 servings of sugary drinks per week, but this ranged from 0.7 servings per week in South Asia to 7.8 servings per week in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Global intakes were observed to be higher in males versus females and in younger versus older people, but the role of education and rural/urban residency was influenced more by region of origin. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely among adults with higher versus lower education in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America/Caribbean, while the opposite was seen in Middle East/North Africa. Overall, some of the highest sugary drink intakes in the world were among urban, highly educated adults in Sub-Saharan Africa (12.4 servings per week) and in Latin America/the Caribbean (8.5 servings per week).

At the national level, the countries where people consumed the highest number of sugary drink servings per week included Mexico (8.9), Ethiopia (7.1), the United States (4.9), and Nigeria (4.9), compared to India, China, and Bangladesh (0.2 each). 

“We were struck by the wide variations by world regions in 2018; that Latin America/Caribbean had the largest intakes at all time points despite an overall decrease overtime; and that Sub-Saharan Africa had the greatest increases across all time points,” says first author Laura Lara-Castor, a PhD candidate in the Nutrition Epidemiology and Data Science program at the Friedman School. “These results suggest that more work is needed, especially around successful interventions such as marketing regulations, food labeling, and soda taxes.”

Information from the Global Dietary Database—which aggregates hundreds of survey results about what people eat and drink—also revealed a relationship between sugary beverages and socio-economic status. Between 1990 and 2018, the largest increase in consumption was in Sub-Saharan Africa (+2.99; +81.9%). Intakes rose then fell in high-income countries, and decreased then increased in Latin America/Caribbean, both returning close to 1990 levels by 2018. Other world regions had more modest, steady increases over time. Similar patterns were observed by sex, age, education, and area of residence.  

While the study did not identify the reasons for these trends, the researchers hypothesize the changes could be related to the effectiveness of targeted marketing tactics from the soda and food industry, the association of Western diets with high status, as well as access to water. “Soda can reach the farthest places, and in countries where clean water is less accessible, these beverages might be the only thing available to drink at times,” says Lara-Castor.

“Sugar-sweetened beverage intake has increased in the past few decades despite efforts to decrease their appeal,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School. “Some populations are especially vulnerable, and our findings provide evidence to inform the need and design of national and more targeted policies to reduce their intake worldwide.”

The researchers say more work is needed to assess sugary drink intake in children and adolescents, to measure the impact of soda taxes globally, and to better understand differences across each country’s subpopulations. The team also wants to explore how other sweet beverages, such as milk, coffees and teas, factor into consumption habits.

Research reported in this article was supported by the Gates Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the National Council for Science and Technology in Mexico. Complete information on authors, funders, methodology, and conflicts of interest is available in the published paper.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.



Electronic sensor the size of a single molecule a potential game-changer

Australian researchers have developed a molecular-sized, more efficient version of a widely used electronic sensor, in a breakthrough that could bring widespread benefits. Piezoresistors are commonly used to detect vibrations in electronics and automobiles, such as in smart phones for counting steps, and for airbag deployment in cars. They are also used in medical devices such as implantable pressure sensors, as well as in aviation and space travel. In a nationwide initiative, researchers led by Dr Nadim Darwish from Curtin University, Professor Jeffrey ...

Controlled burns help prevent wildfires; Climate change is limiting their use

Key takeaways Rising temperatures will cut the number of days when conditions favor prescribed fires by 17% on average across the Western U.S., mostly in spring and summer. Winter, however, will see a net 4% increase in the number of favorable days. Implementing controlled burns in the West will require changes to policy and the availability of firefighters. ​​​​​​ Prescribed fires, sometimes called controlled burns, are one of the most common tools for preventing catastrophic wildfires in the Western United States. Lit by highly trained firefighters, they help clear away excess dry plant matter that might otherwise ...

Pregnant women offered new hope for safe and effective gestational diabetes treatment

Pregnant women offered new hope for safe and effective gestational diabetes treatment
Researchers at University of Galway have taken a significant step forward in the management of gestational diabetes mellitus after a clinical trial involving pregnant women provided new hope for expectant mothers suffering the condition. The findings from the trial are being published in JAMA: the Journal of American Medical Association.  Gestational diabetes is a global health issue affecting almost 3 million pregnant women worldwide every year. It is a condition characterised by elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy, posing increased health risks for both mothers and their babies.  Professor Fidelma Dunne, Professor of Medicine ...

Early metformin in gestational diabetes

About The Study: In this randomized clinical trial, early treatment with metformin was not superior to placebo for the composite primary outcome of insulin initiation or a fasting glucose level of 5.1 mmol/L or greater at gestation weeks 32 or 38. Prespecified secondary outcome data support further investigation of metformin in larger clinical trials.  Authors: Fidelma Dunne, Ph.D., of the University of Galway in Galway, Ireland, is the corresponding author. To access the embargoed study: Visit our For The Media website ...

Tirzepatide vs insulin lispro added to basal insulin in type 2 diabetes

About The Study: In people with inadequately controlled type 2 diabetes treated with basal insulin in this randomized clinical trial with 1,428 participants, weekly tirzepatide compared with prandial insulin as an additional treatment with insulin glargine demonstrated reductions in HbA1c and body weight with less hypoglycemia.  Authors: Julio Rosenstock, M.D., of Velocity Clinical Research at Medical City in Dallas, is the corresponding author. To access the embargoed study: Visit our For The Media ...

New biobanking partnership safeguards the genetic diversity of America’s endangered species

New biobanking partnership safeguards the genetic diversity of America’s endangered species
San Francisco, CA - The nonprofit Revive & Restore announces a groundbreaking new initiative to biobank U.S. endangered species, in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This multi-institution collaboration is the first systematic biobanking pipeline for U.S. threatened and endangered species. The initiative will protect genetic diversity for current and future recovery efforts. "This is about creating a legacy of America’s natural history before it is lost and provides an important resource to enhance species recovery efforts now and in the future,” said Ryan Phelan, Executive Director of Revive & ...

Eating disorders increased during pandemic in female adolescents and adults

Emergency department (ED) visits and hospital admissions for eating disorders increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in adolescents aged 10–17 years, as did ED visits among young adults and older adults, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) Using ICES data, researchers compared observed and expected rates of ED visits and hospitalizations for eating disorders before (Jan. 1, 2017, to Feb. 29, 2020) and during the pandemic (Mar. 1, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2022) in adolescents (10–17 years), young adults (18–26 years), adults (27–40 years) ...

Improved mangrove conservation could yield cash, carbon, coastal benefits

Improved mangrove conservation could yield cash, carbon, coastal benefits
A shift in the way we think about the benefits mangroves provide to coastal regions could yield significant economic and biodiversity gains and protect millions from flooding, research has revealed. The University of Queensland-led study shows current conservation efforts typically target biodiversity protection whilst minimising conflict with economic interests, while failing to consider the huge benefits provided by ecosystems. Alvise Dabalà, now at the University of the Azores and whose Masters project at UQ formed the basis of this study, said human activities, such as deforestation and coastal development have led to extensive ...

Brain biometrics help identify sports concussions

Novel brain biometrics could help inform whether an athlete is ready to return to play following a concussion, according to new research from the University of South Australia. Conducted in partnership with the University of California San Francisco (UCFC), researchers found that changes in micromovements of the brain – termed ‘headpulses’ – could detect the lasting impacts of a concussion. Using a custom-designed headset* to evaluate headpulse biometrics among 101 amateur male and female Australian ...

Study uncovers reasons Americans did not get booster vaccines

Study uncovers reasons Americans did not get booster vaccines
The paper, “Understanding low bivalent COVID-19 booster uptake among US adults,” was published in the journal Vaccine. “Our results indicate that we have a lot more work to do in terms of educating the public and health care providers about the importance of staying up to date on COVID-19 boosters,” said first author Elizabeth Jacobs, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the Zuckerman College of Public Health, who led the research with associate professor of epidemiology Kristen Pogreba-Brown, PhD, MPH. Nearly 40% of survey participants reported they did not get a booster shot because ...


DNA aptamer drug sensors can instantly detect cocaine, heroin and fentanyl – even when combined with other drugs

New project will use next-gen at-home rapid test to track COVID-19, RSV, and flu

SRI relaunches the PARC Forum event series as it celebrates the first anniversary of acquiring the storied Palo Alto Research Center

An inside look at Beech tree disease

New AI model draws treasure maps to diagnose disease

Breastfeeding after COVID-19 booster can give babies antibodies

Researchers closing in on genetic treatments for hereditary lung disease, vision loss

COVID-19 associated with increased risk for autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases up to a year after infection

UC Irvine receives $15 million NSF grant for integrative movement research

University of Houston engineer Metin Akay featured in study highlighting 50 scientists' contributions to biomedical engineering advancements

JWST captures the end of planet formation

Good news—MS drugs taken while breastfeeding may not affect child development

Programs intended to reduce health insurance premiums may make coverage less affordable for the middle class

PrEP discontinuation in a US national cohort of sexual and gender minority populations, 2017–22

USC Study: Medicare Part D plans increased restrictions on drug coverage

Sacituzumab govitecan plus platinum-based chemotherapy in breast, bladder, and lung carcinomas

Global study unveils "problematic" use of porn

Newly discovered protein prevents DNA triplication

Less ice in the arctic ocean has complex effects on marine ecosystems and ocean productivity

Antarctica’s coasts are becoming less icy

New research shows migrating animals learn by experience

Modeling the origins of life: New evidence for an “RNA World”

Scientists put forth a smarter way to protect a smarter grid

An evolutionary mystery 125 million years in the making

Data science approach to identifying thermal conductivity-related structural factors in amorphous materials

Deciphering the male breast cancer genome

Detection of suicide-related emergencies among children using real-world clinical data: A free webinar from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Editor-in-Chief of Sustainability and Climate Change Madhavi Venkatesan named USA TODAY Woman of the Year for Massachusetts for leading plastic bottle ban efforts

Tests show high-temperature superconducting magnets are ready for fusion

Zika vaccine safe, effective when administered during pregnancy

[] Globally, consumption of sugary drinks increased at least 16% since 1990
Dietary survey data shows differences based on region and age, say researchers at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University