AMA Adopts Policy to Reduce Consumption of Sugar-sweetened Beverages

CHICAGO — With consistent evidence showing a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and an increase in type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, the American Medical Assoc. (AMA) adopted new policy during this week’s annual meeting, as part of a comprehensive report on SSBs, aimed at reducing the amount of sugar Americans consume.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on average, Americans get 16{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of their total calories from added sugars that provide no nutrient value and are often referred to as ‘empty calories.’ A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association also found that a majority of U.S. adults consume more added sugar than recommended for a healthy diet.

“Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to some of the nation’s most debilitating diseases, and limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages will go a long way toward helping people prevent the onset of these diseases, improve health outcomes, and rein in health costs associated with chronic diseases,” said AMA board member Dr. William Kobler.

The new policy supports evidence-based strategies to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including excise taxes on SSBs, removing options to purchase SSBs in primary and secondary schools, the use of warning labels to inform consumers about the health consequences of SSB consumption, and the use of plain packaging.

The policy also urges continued research into other strategies that may be effective in limiting SSB consumption, such as controlling portion sizes; limiting options to purchase or access SSBs in early-childcare settings, workplaces, and public venues; restrictions on marketing SSBs to children; and changes to the agricultural-subsidies system.

New AMA policy also encourages hospitals and medical facilities to offer healthier beverages, such as water, unflavored milk, coffee, and unsweetened tea, for purchase in place of SSBs. Additionally, the policy calls for these facilities to make calorie counts visible next to the price of beverages sold in their vending machines.

Under the policy, physicians are also encouraged to counsel their patients about the health consequences of SSB consumption and importance of replacing SSBs with healthier beverage choices. The new policy also calls for working with school districts to promote healthy beverage choices for students.