By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Fully implementing the 2016 FDA added sugar nutrition label policy could lead to better health and cost savings over the next 20 years, according to the authors of a recent study.

Added sugars, found in processed food and sweet sodas, can cause many health problems. As part of the National Institutes of Health-funded Food-PRICE initiative, investigators used a validated microsimulation model to predict what would happen if the United States fully adopted the FDA’s added sugar labeling policy. Between 2018 and 2037, researchers found that adhering to this label policy could prevent 354,000 cardiovascular disease cases and lead to almost 600,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, for an estimated $31 billion reduction in net healthcare costs.

“Our findings may be conservative and underestimate the full health and economic impacts. The model only evaluated health benefits and cost-savings from diabetes and cardiovascular disease outcomes,” Renata Micha, RD, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston and study co-author, said in a statement. Micha and colleagues believe added sugar labels would lead food and beverage manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products. They pointed to another FDA regulation that calls for food labels to include information about trans fats, which led to the decline of trans fat use.

In the near term, there’s a long way to go on this issue. The American Heart Association estimates the average American consumes 300 calories per day from added sugar, primarily from sweetened beverages and pastries. Still, the word is out about sugar and its harmful effects on health.

There’s plenty of conversation in the healthcare community lately about modifying diets and all the positive outcomes that can follow. For example, in the March issue of Integrative Medicine Alert, author Ellen Feldman, MD, wrote about the possible connection between quality of diet and lowering the risk of depressive symptoms. In a meta-analysis of 42 studies, researchers found that subjects who reported following the Mediterranean diet closely were at a lower risk for developing depressive symptoms compared to subjects who did not adhere closely to this diet.

“There are no drawbacks or downsides to recommending healthy dietary interventions such as the Mediterranean diet and/or avoiding pro-inflammatory foods when discussing depression or prevention of this disorder. On the other hand, the clear potential benefits in reducing the burden of depression or avoiding this disorder altogether by incorporating diet change into treatment is compelling,” Feldman wrote. “Patients experiencing severe depression may find it difficult to muster the energy needed to plan and modify a diet. Catching such patients (those at risk for depressive episodes) at early stages may help lower this barrier. Providers should discuss diet with patients and help them adopt such an intervention into an overall treatment and wellness plan.”