Researchers map drink consumption around the world

Researchers, in one of the most comprehensive global studies, have mapped the type and quantities of drinks consumed around the world. They explain that a major portion of the daily calorie and nutrition intake comes from the beverages consumed. The results of the study were presented at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, held June 8-11, 2019 in Baltimore.

Paket / Shutterstock
Paket / Shutterstock

In their study the team looked at beverage consumption habits from 185 countries around the world. Lead study author Laura Lara-Castor, a doctoral student in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University spoke about her “Global Dietary Database project,” saying that, “These preliminary data derived from the Global Dietary Database project can help inform nutrition transitions over time, the impacts of these beverages on global health, and targeted dietary policy to improve diet and health.”

The team looked at 2015 data by compiling results from 1,100 surveys that were taken by 6.78 billion people around the world. The surveys looked at various dietary and beverage consuming habits.

According to Lara-Castor and her team some patterns emerged from their study. She said, “Notably, sugar-sweetened beverage and fruit juice intake was highest in the Latin American region, where both commercial and homemade sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit drinks are widely consumed. Milk intake was highest in the high-income region (including countries such as Sweden, Iceland and Finland) where dairy farming is more widespread and dairy consumption has been traditionally a major part of the diet.” Youngsters living in urban areas and those with higher education levels consumed more beverages than otherwise, the team noted. Milk intake was high among those below 12 years of age as well as those above 72 years of age, found the study.

Results revealed that in Mexico, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was at its highest with an average adult consuming over 19 ounces or 2.5 cups per day. Suriname and Jamaica came next with an average of around 15 ounces per day. China, Indonesia and Burkina Faso showed lowest consumption of these beverages. Fruit juice consumption was highest in nations such as Colombia and the Dominican Republic at around 10 to 11 or 1.4 cups per day. China, Portugal and Japan consumed lowest amounts of fruit juices, the team noted. Nations such as Sweden, Iceland and Finland consumed more milk than other nations at 9 or 10 ounces or 1.3 cups per day average. China, Togo and Sudan consumed least amount of milk on an average.

The researchers explain that Mexico with its highest consumption of sugary beverages is also a place where rates of obesity are one of the highest. Reports show that over 70 percent of the population in the nation is overweight or obese and over 70 percent of their sugar consumption comes from these sugary beverages with Coca-Cola being the most favourite. To curb use, the Mexican government has added sugar taxes. After the first year of this taxing there has been a 5.5 percent drop in sugar consumption of the nation. In the second year after the taxes were in place, there was a 9.7 percent drop in sugar consumption. This study also noted that sugary drink consumption as well a s fruit juice consumption was high not only for commercially available packaged drinks but also home-made sugary drinks.

According to Lara-Castor, “For sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice and milk, these data reflect updated and expanded estimates of the 2010 GDD, while for coffee and tea these constitute the first global quantitative estimates to be ever reported.” She said, “These data highlight gaps in dietary surveillance, further helping inform nutrition transitions over time, the impacts of these beverages on global health, and targeted dietary policy to improve diet and health.”

The team adds that there were some limitations in the study. They write that the beverage consumption data came for only certain beverages, within a certain time period in the country. Lara-Castor said, “In particular, more intake data were available in 2015 than in 1990, and relatively few intake data were available in most Sub-Saharan African nations. [Nevertheless,] our findings represent the best available, yet still imperfect, data on global intakes of key foods.” She explained, “In ongoing work, we are updating our searches, data collection and modelling, to overcome each of these prior limitations.”

Overall the study gives a fair idea of what the world is drinking, said Lara-Castor. This may help develop nutritional policies that could be beneficial to public health she concluded.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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