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FDA's New Sugar Label Can Save the U.S. $31B in Health Care Costs

The added sugar label also has potential to add more candles to your birthday cake, too.
white sugar in wooden spoon resting on brown sugar

Not only does the new nutrition panel you see on packaged foods disclose how many grams of added sugars are present in your packaged foods and drinks, but a new study recently disclosed that the enlightening update can save us a staggering $31 billion in health care costs over two decades. Researchers at Tufts University in Boston set out to discover how the addition of the FDA's added sugars label will help prevent metabolic diseases—namely diabetes and heart disease—in a study published in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation. The results were pretty sweet.

To come to these findings, researchers used the U.S. Impact Food Policy model—which utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder Database, meta-analyses, and other policy- and health-related costs—to estimate how many cases of heart disease and diabetes the new nutrition label would avert.

"Clear, easy-to-understand nutrition labels help guide everyone on the path to healthy eating," Linda Van Horn, PhD, RDN, American Heart Association volunteer expert and Professor and Chief of Nutrition in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, in Chicago, said in a press release. "Consumers are better empowered to make more informed food choices that will help reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke and live longer, healthier lives."

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The study concluded that, between 2018 and 2037, the new label would prevent 354,400 cases of heart disease, 599,300 cases of diabetes, and save Americans $31 billion in health care costs. What's more, the Tufts team arguably found the fountain of youth: the study shows that Americans would gain 727,000 quality-adjusted years. And if food and drink manufacturers reformulate their products to reduce the sugar content, these numbers would further skyrocket—with a whopping 708,800 fewer cases of heart disease and 1.2 million fewer diabetes diagnoses. Another bonus: the health care savings would come in at over $57 billion.

"Our results indicate that timely implementation of the added sugars label could reduce the consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars, which could then lead to an improvement in health and a reduction in healthcare spending," Renata Micha, RD, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said in the press release. Micha concluded with another hopeful tidbit: "Our findings may be conservative and underestimate the full health and economic impacts."

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