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Added sugar labels could substantially improve public health, study finds

According to a study led by researchers at Tufts University, the new mandatory added sugar labeling policy adopted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could prove to be a cost effective solution for healthcare systems in the United States. The research is the first to estimate the potential impacts of the label, which is set to take effect between 2020 and 2021.

The FDA announced in 2016 that one of the changes in the Nutrition Facts label will be adding the grams and percent Daily Value of added sugar content. This change is intended to help consumers limit their added sugar intake to the levels recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

According to the study, the FDA’s added sugar label could prevent or postpone nearly one million cases of cardiometabolic diseases such heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes over a 20-year period. Furthermore, if packaged foods and beverages are reformulated to reduce added sugar content, this effect combined with the new food labels could prevent or postpone nearly three million cases of cardiovascular disease and diabetes over the same time frame.

In particular, the added sugar label could prevent or postpone 354,400 cases of cardiovascular disease and 599,300 cases of diabetes. The label could also save $31 billion in net healthcare costs and $61.9 billion in societal costs.

“The added sugar label is an important policy step toward reducing consumption of foods and beverages with high added sugar contents, improving health, and lowering healthcare spending,” said study co-author Dr. Renata Micha. “These findings have important implications for individuals, policy makers and the food industry alike. Modest industry reformulation would be a powerful way to maximize potential benefits, highlighting industry’s critical role in being part of the solution.”

“Informing consumers about what is in their sugary drinks, cakes, and sweets will help them decide what they want to eat for their health now and later,” said study co-senior author Dr. Martin O’Flaherty from the University of Liverpool. “Full implementation of the label before 2021 could help maximize health and economic gains.”

The study is published in the journal Circulation.

By Chrissy Sexton,  Staff Writer

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