The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) has urged the US Surgeon General to carry out a comprehensive study of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption’s potential impact on public health.
In a letter to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the cancer lobby group emphasized that there is scientific evidence to suggest that about one in three cancer fatalities in the United States is linked to diet and exercise habits, including overweight and obesity. It claims that an unbiased and comprehensive report could have a major impact on Americans’ food and beverage choices, as was the case with the Surgeon General’s groundbreaking 1964 report on the dangers of smoking.
“Large portion sizes, calorie-dense foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages are extensively marketed by restaurants, supermarkets, and food and beverage companies,” the letter reads.
“Sugar contributes to caloric intake without providing any of the nutrients that reduce cancer risk. We know there is a direct link between excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, and the adverse health effect can be profound in children as they grow into adults and throughout their lives.”
It concludes: “There seems to be a consensus about the problem and the cause, but what is lacking is an articulate, science-based and comprehensive national plan of action. We believe the combined resources and credibility of the Surgeon General could help us get there.”
The American Beverage Association, which represents the interests of most of the largest beverage manufacturers in the United States, has repeatedly denied that high-calorie soft drinks have any unique relationship to obesity.
“Independent data cited by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show calories from added sugars from soda are down 39 percent since 2000," the association said in an emailed statement. "If calories and added sugars consumed from beverages are going down and obesity is going up, soft drinks are not to blame for the obesity epidemic. The math just doesn’t work....Attempts to single out soft drink calories as the culprit for obesity don't lead to meaningful solutions to a complex problem that is affected by diet, lifestyle, genetics, environment, and income disparity.”
According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, and obesity rates have increased dramatically in the past 20 years. The CDC says obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
About 572,000 people die from cancers each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.