SA's poor drinking themselves to death - and cooldrinks are to blame
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.