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Facts about sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and obesity in South Africa

South Africans consume between 12 and 24 teaspoons of sugar per day - four to eight teaspoons are from SSBs.


Sugar content of SSBs

  • Average amount of sugar in a single 330ml carbonated beverage = 8 teaspoons
  • Average amount of sugar in a single 330ml fruit juice = 9 teaspoons
  • WHO guidelines suggests a total limit of 6 teaspoons of sugar/day

Harmful effects of SSBs

  • Children who frequently consume SSBs are at high risk for dental caries
  • Drinking just one SSB a day increases an adult’s likelihood of being overweight by 27%
  • Drinking just one SSB a day increases a child’s likelihood of being overweight by 55%
  • Drinking one or two SSBs a day increases the risk of developing type II diabetes by 25%
  • People who consume one SSB per day are 30% more likely to die from a heart attack
  • Drinking SSBs daily for just two weeks increases blood fat levels by 20%
  • After six months, daily consumption of SSBs doubles the fat deposits in the liver and contributes to diabetes and heart disease

How are SSBs different to other sugars?

  • Liquid sugar is particularly harmful
  • Liquid sugar is absorbed in 30 minutes causing a spike in blood sugar
  • These spikes lead to sugar changing into fat in the liver and contributing to the development of diabetes and heart disease
  • Calories from SSBs do not leave one feeling full unlike calories from food or milk
  • SSBs add to calories consumed
  • SSBs have no nutritional value

Obesity and disease

  • Excess sugar consumption is associated with weight gain
  • South Africa has the biggest rate of obesity in sub-Saharan Africa
  • 7 out of 10 women above age 35 are overweight
  • 4 out of 10 men above age 35 are overweight
  • 1 out of 5 teenage girls are overweight
  • Overweight and obesity increase by four to eight times the risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer
  • Obesity-related diseases are among the top 10 causes of death – this prevalence is only rivalled by HIV/AIDS