Curbing added sugar from the U.S. food supply could save money and lives

Pears are prominently displayed at a food market.

A program that supports a collaborative and voluntary approach to reduce added sugar from the U.S. food supply could save millions of lives and billions of dollars over a lifetime, according to a cost-benefit analysis published in Circulation.  
The U.S. National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative, supported by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was finalized in February 2021 and provides sugar-reduction targets for manufacturers and food service providers to use as part of a public health partnership to improve the health of Americans. The goal of the initiative is to gradually reduce 20% of added sugar from common food purchases and 40% from sugar-sweetened beverages over several years. Achieving these targets could help Americans eliminate 3.7 grams of added sugar from daily food sources and 6.3 grams of added sugar from sugar-sweetened beverages. Over a lifetime, about 100 years, the initiative could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events, .49 million cardiovascular deaths, and .75 million diabetes cases. The authors predict achieving the sugar-reduction targets could also add 6.67 million years to lives and save $160.88 billion through productivity and related health care costs.  

Food service providers who join the initiative could use a variety of approaches to phase out added sugar from products, which could addresses diet-related health disparities and help reshape American food preferences. Examples include highlighting healthful options prominently in stores, incrementally reducing sugar in existing products, offering new products, or trying other measures. New approaches could include using consumer-friendly food labels, providing financial incentives to purchase healthful options, and partnering with organizations to host health education campaigns. The initiative would cost $23 billion to implement and was estimated to become cost-effective at six years, while generating significant savings at nine years. The research was supported by the NHLBI.