The Food and Drug Administration's mandatory labeling on added sugar content for sugary beverages and packaged foods may help reduce diabetes and cardiovascular diseases over the next 20 years.

A study by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston and the University of Liverpool states that the labeling could postpone or prevent nearly 1 million cases of cardiometabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. The new labels could also lower health care spending.

How Food Labels Can Reduce Cardiometabolic Diseases

The researchers used a validated microsimulation model called IMPACT to estimate the impacts, and cost-effectiveness of added sugar labels.

It suggests that the labeling of added sugar content would stimulate the food industry to actually reduce sugar in their products, making the potential impact twice as large as the benefits from the labels alone. This experience was noted in the case of manufacturers reducing or removing trans fats from their products following the mandatory trans fat labeling on products in the United States.

Overall, industry reformulations and the new labels combined could prevent or postpone nearly 3 million cases of diabetes and cardiovascular ailments.

The research published in the journal Circulation is the first to analyze the potential health and economic impacts of the FDA's new labels.

Labels Can Warn Against Excessive Sugar Intake

In 2016, the FDA required changes to the Nutrition Facts label to include the grams and percent Daily Value of added sugar content. This is to help consumers limit calorie intake from added sugar based on the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2015 to 2020.

Based on the study's analysis, the added sugar label could prevent 354,400 cases of cardiovascular disease and 599,300 cases of diabetes. The estimated reduction in net health care costs would be more than $31 billion and $61.9 billion savings in societal costs.

"Our results indicate that timely implementation of the added sugars label could reduce consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars, which could then lead to an improvement in health and a reduction in healthcare spending," said Renata Micha, R.D., Ph.D., of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Informing Consumers On What They Eat

Americans are said to be consuming over 15 percent of their total calories from added sugars mainly from sugary drinks, cookies, cakes, pastries, candies, and ice cream. Informing them about the content of sugar- loaded food and beverages will help them decide what they want to eat for their health.

Experts believe that nutrition labels that are clear and easy to understand will help empower consumers in making more informed food choices. In general, it would guide everyone on the path to healthy eating.

"We and others have shown that food labeling can be an effective strategy to support informed consumer choice and effectively change consumer behavior," Micha added.

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