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Sugary drinks responsible for 1 in 200 deaths: Study

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By Charu Bahri

Sugar-sweetened beverages account for one in every 200 deaths caused by India’s rising tide of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, according to a 2015 study.

“Over 80 percent of those deaths happen because sugary drinks are associated with weight gain and diabetes,” Dariush Mozaffarian, study co-author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition, Tufts University in the US, told IndiaSpend. Another 15 percent of those deaths occur because sugar-sweetened beverages are an established cause of heart disease, said Mozaffarian.

Heart disease and diabetes have reached epidemic levels in India, together responsible for 28 percent of all deaths.

Over the last decade, obesity has more than doubled among men, and risen one-and-a-half times among women, according to the latest National Family Health Survey.

One or two sugary drinks a day – what you might consider “moderate” consumption, and hence safe – are enough to cause trouble, according to scientific evidence.

People consuming one to two servings a day are at 26 percent greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes than those consuming no sugar-sweetened beverage or less than a serving a month.

Women consuming two or more sugary drinks a day had a 35 percent greater risk of developing coronary heart disease than infrequent consumers, according to this study. Men who averaged a can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack compared to men who rarely consumed sugary drinks.

How tax hikes cut demand: The Mexican experience

India’s battle with excess weight and lifestyle diseases has turned the focus on high-calorie foods and beverages, and in turn, on taxation – a tool with the potential to lower consumption.

Higher taxes increase prices, which in turn lower demand. It’s a formula that has worked in Mexico.

A new 10 percent tax on soft drinks, introduced in January 2014 with the objective of lowering consumption 10-12 percent, actually lowered overall consumption by 12 percent, or 4.2 litres per person by December, a new Mexican study showed. Poorer households witnessed a 17 percent decline in consumption.

A 20 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would cut India’s excess weight and obesity prevalence by three percent over a decade – and the cases of type-2 diabetes by 1.6% at current consumption growth rates – a 2014 study estimated.

That implies India would have 11.2 million fewer cases of obesity and 400,000 fewer cases of type-2 diabetes.

If soft drink consumption were to rise further – as it likely will, in line with the annual average growth of 13 percent since 1998 – the authors of the India study suggested that taxation would avert 4.2 percent of prevalent excess weight/obesity and 2.5 percent of type-2 diabetes cases.

In India, the weather impacts fizzy drink demand more than higher tax

In July 2014, the Indian government increased the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages by five percent, hoping to curb consumption.

With that, the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages touched approximately 18 percent, which sounds high, but not enough to make a sizeable dent in demand, according to IndiaSpend’s analyses.

Sales of aerated beverages increased 10 percent in 2014, according to the Indian Beverage Association, a lobby group. This is because “summer had already passed by July 2014, when the tax was increased”, Arvind Varma, secretary-general of the Indian Beverage Association, told IndiaSpend. About 40 percent of the soft-drink industry’s annual sales occur between April and June.

Sales of aerated beverages declined 10 percent between April and September 2015, “primarily because of the mild summer of 2015, but the additional five tax on aerated beverages has only served to deepen the impact on the industry”, said Varma.

Coca-Cola, the industry leader, referred to “unseasonal weather” for a “mid single-digit decline” in India sales between April and June 2015, with sales growing four percent between July and September.

Sales of sugar-sweetened fizzy beverages grew nine in 2014, when the extra tax was imposed, according to Euromonitor International, a market-intelligence company that projected similar sales growth in 2015.

If India’s last five percent tax hike has not served to curtail demand for sugary drinks, it may be time for another round of increases.

“India can expect the consumption of sugary beverages to fall in response to taxes that are high enough, because India, like Mexico, has a surfeit of price-conscious consumers and comparatively lower income levels, consumer segments that are more price-sensitive,” said Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition, University of North Carolina, and co-author of the Mexican study that advocates taxes as a disincentive.

In greater awareness, lies India’s health

The government should raise taxes, launch awareness campaigns, and curtail soft-drink availability, especially in schools and sports complexes, said health experts.

“Higher tax is definitely one of the strongest interventions to reduce consumption, but it should be accompanied by robust behavioral interventions to change social norms and perceptions,” said Manu Raj Mathur, research scientist and assistant professor at the Public Health Foundation of India advocacy. Mathur studies ways to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among adolescents and school children.

“Increasing awareness about the risks and health consequences of high sugar intake would help inspire sorely-needed dietary changes-permanently,” said Hemalatha R of Hyderabad’s National Institute of Nutrition.

Mathur said their interactions with adolescents from private schools in Delhi and their parents and teachers show that most believe sugar-sweetened beverages to mainly be fizzy drinks. “They did not recognize fruit juices in tetra packs as sugar-sweetened beverages and even referred to them as healthy alternatives to Coke and Pepsi,” he said.

Packaged fruit juices contain added sugar, as do most dairy-based beverages and sport and energy drinks. Parents and teachers want prominent film stars and sports people to counter celebrity endorsements of sugary drinks. Such advertisements lead adolescents into believing that sugary beverages in moderation are not harmful – a prominent qualitative finding of Mathur’s study. (IANS/IndiaSpend.org)(Photo: www.natureworldnews.com)

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  • Manthra koliyer

    Yes, sugary drinks are very harmful and affect our bodies.

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The Young Miracle: Baby In Congo Suffering From Ebola Recovers

The latest WHO assessment, released Thursday, simply calls the circumstances "unforgiving."

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Ebola, baby
- In this photograph taken Dec. 3, 2018, and released by UNICEF, an Ebola survivor cares for one-week-old Benedicte who was infected at birth with the Ebola virus by her mother, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

They call her the “young miracle.” A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center just six days after birth has now recovered from the virus.

Congo’s health ministry calls the baby the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.

The ministry late Thursday tweeted a photo of the infant, swaddled and with her tiny mouth open in yawn or squall, surrounded by caregivers who watched over her 24 hours a day for weeks.

The baby’s mother, who had Ebola, died in childbirth, the ministry said.

The infant was discharged Wednesday from the treatment center in Beni. “She went home in the arms of her father and her aunt,” the ministry said.

 

Ebola, baby
Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient, inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders) supported Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

 

Experts have reported high numbers of children with Ebola in this outbreak, which Congo’s health ministry says has 515 cases, 467 of them confirmed, including 255 confirmed deaths.

 

The tiny survivor is named Benedicte. In video footage shared by UNICEF, she is shown in an isolated treatment area, cradled in the arms of health workers in protective gear or cuddled by Ebola survivors, called “nounous,” who can go without certain gear such as masks. The survivors are crucial with their reassuring presence, the health ministry said.

“This is my first child,” her father, Thomas, said. “I truly don’t want to lose her. She is my hope.” He gazed at his baby daughter through the clear protective plastic.

Infected children

Children now account for more than one-third of all cases in this outbreak, UNICEF said earlier this week. One in 10 Ebola cases is in a child under 5 years old, it said, and children who contract the hemorrhagic fever are at greater risk of dying than adults.

Ebola, Baby
A health care worker carries a cross next to a coffin with a baby suspected of dying of Ebola in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 13, 2018. VOA

While Ebola typically infects adults, as they are most likely to be exposed to the lethal virus, children have been known in some instances to catch the disease when they act as caregivers.

Few cases of Ebola in babies have historically been reported, but experts suspect transmission might happen via breast milk or close contact with infected parents. Ebola is typically spread by infected bodily fluids.

The World Health Organization also has noted that health centers have been identified as a source of Ebola transmission in this outbreak, with injections of medications “a notable cause.”

Dangerous conditions

So far, more than 400 children have been left orphaned or unaccompanied in this outbreak as patients can spend weeks in treatment centers, UNICEF said. A kindergarten has opened next to one treatment center in Beni “to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated” there, it said.

Congo, Ebola, Women, Baby
Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Health experts have said this Ebola outbreak, the 10th in Congo, is like no other as they face the threat of attack from armed groups and resistance from a wary population in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before. Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola victims remains a challenge in areas controlled by rebels.

Also Read: Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

The latest WHO assessment, released Thursday, simply calls the circumstances “unforgiving.”

And now, Congo is set to hold a presidential election Dec. 23, with unrest already brewing. (VOA)