Sunday Times

Poor peo­ple’s cooldrink habit flagged as health emer­gency

- By DAVE CHAM­BERS Health · Lifestyle · Healthy Food · Healthy Living · Iceland · Austria · Cape Town · Eastern Cape

● The huge thirst for sug­ary drinks in poor com­mu­ni­ties is a crit­i­cal pub­lic health con­cern, says a new study.

A team of 15 aca­demics, mainly from SA, said “alarm­ingly high” con­sump­tion rates may have an “enor­mous” im­pact on health, health-care costs and life ex­pectancy.

The study, pub­lished on Wed­nes­day in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Obe­sity, was done be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of a tax on sug­ary drinks on April 1.

Re­searchers led by Dr Kufre Okop and Pro­fes­sor Vicki Lam­bert said the tax was likely to re­duce con­sump­tion, es­pe­cially in poor house­holds. But other mea­sures, such as a sub­sidy for fruit and veg­eta­bles, were needed to head off a health emer­gency.

The re­searchers mon­i­tored 212 men and 588 women — mostly un­em­ployed — for up to five years, and found high con­sump­tion of sug­ary drinks piled on the ki­los.

“An in­take of 10 or more [drinks equiv­a­lent to a 330ml can of cola] per week was as­so­ci­ated with in­creased odds of gain­ing at least 5% body weight,” they said.

Hun­gry peo­ple — the 40% of those in the study who were “food inse­cure” — drank more sug­ary drinks. “More­over, the food inse­cure were also less likely to eat fruit and veg­eta­bles daily, as a re­sult of the high cost.”

On av­er­age, the peo­ple in the study — from Khayelit­sha and Langa in Cape Town, and Mount Frere in the East­ern Cape — downed 9.9 sug­ary drinks a week. The av­er­age among hun­gry peo­ple was 11.

High in­take of sug­ary drinks led to weight gain, in­sulin re­sis­tance, sys­temic in­flam­ma­tion and in­creased risk of obe­sity, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and type 2 di­a­betes.

“The alarm­ingly high con­sump­tion rates among in­di­vid­u­als in the re­source-poor com­mu­ni­ties of SA is a crit­i­cal pub­lic health con­cern, es­pe­cially due to its as­so­ci­a­tion with weight gain, obe­sity, meta­bolic risk and sev­eral non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases,” the re­searchers said.

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