A study published last month explored the paradox of the decreasing prevalence of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and the steady rise in obesity rates in Australia. This study’s findings verify the reduction in SSBs and suggest that the focus of obesity interventions expand to other dietary factors.
The gradual global rise in the proportion of overweight and obese individuals (regardless of age) from 1980-2013 has been well documented in research. Importantly, Australia and New Zealand have experienced the most significant increase in adult obesity levels since 1980 (16% and 29%, respectively). Some studies have noted that in numerous countries, this steep rise in obesity rates over the course of years has occurred alongside the higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and added sugars. The majority of health authorities are in agreement regarding the excessive consumption of added sugars and SSBs as strong determinants of obesity. As a result, many studies have been conducted under the assumption that reducing one’s intake of SSBs and added sugars should curb obesity and related chronic diseases. The primary aim of a new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was to examine the patterns in the availability of sweeteners and sugars, and the consumption of added sugars, total sugars, and SSBs in Australia.
A total of 10 articles were included in this study’s statistical analyses as they provided reasonable national estimates concerning added sugar and SSBs consumption. When analyzing Australian national dietary survey data, researchers also found that 29% of those who reported drinking alcohol (greater or equal to 19 years old) received 16% of their total energy from alcohol from 2011-2012.
During the period of 1980-2013 obesity levels rose 80% in Australia, while the availability of SSBs declined by 16%.
This thorough statistical analysis of national survey and sugar industry data leads researchers to believe that Australians have been controlling and reducing their SSBs and other sugary products over time. Over the course of decades, reduction patterns have been observed in terms of the availability of SSBs, the self-reported total energy intake of SSBs, and the industry data on sugar contributions to SSBs; unfortunately, obesity rates still continue to increase in Australia. Other nations should take these findings into consideration when developing potentially effective obesity prevention strategies.
Written By: Melissa Booker