Research has shown that sugar affects the reward centers of the brain in a way not unlike drugs and alcohol, and food manufacturers know we’re all hooked, though it’s disastrous to our health.
Sugar levels in food have increased by 30% since 1980 and the number of obese people have doubled.
Now researchers say they have found a way to curb the obesity epidemic in the UK and US.
According to a new study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, soda manufacturers could prevent a million cases of obesity in the U.K. by slowly reducing sugar content in the drinks over time. Because the population of the U.S. is about five times larger, there could be huge implications on this side of the pond as well.
Researchers believe tapering off the sugar content little by little would give consumers time to adjust to the changing taste. It’s possible that if done gradually, beverage manufacturers could reduce sugar content by as much as 40% in five years, without much shock to the palate.
If the average American kept up with their current soda consumption levels they could cut out hundreds of calories every day.
“This reduction would lead to a reduction of roughly 0.5 million adults from being overweight and 1 million adults from being obese, which in turn would prevent about 274,000–309,000 incident cases of obesity-related Type 2 diabetes over the two decades after the predicted reduction in bodyweight is achieved,” the authors write in the paper.
Type 2 diabetes result in higher medical bills and lost productivity at work that ends up totaling about $190 billion every year, with that figure expected to rise alongside obesity rates.
People who are obese are also at an increased risk for hypertension, certain cancers, stroke, and other conditions that are some of the biggest causes of death in the country.
Slowly reducing the amount of sugar found in drinks is one small step that could do a lot of good making the world a healthier place.