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Reducing sugar in packaged foods can prevent disease in millions and save $160B

  Abstract Background:  High intake of added sugar is linked to weight gain and cardiometabolic risk. In 2018, the US National Salt and Suga...


Background: High intake of added sugar is linked to weight gain and cardiometabolic risk. In 2018, the US National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI) proposed government supported voluntary national sugar reduction targets. This intervention's potential health and equity impacts, and cost-effectiveness are unclear.

Methods: A validated microsimulation model, CVD-PREDICT, coded in C++, was used to estimate incremental changes in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), costs and cost-effectiveness of the NSSRI policy. The model was run at the individual-level, incorporating the annual probability of each person's transition between health status based on their risk factors. The model incorporated national demographic and dietary data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey across 3 cycles (2011-2016), added sugar-related diseases from meta-analyses, and policy costs and health-related costs from established sources. A simulated nationally representative US population was created and followed until age 100 years or death, with 2019 as the year of intervention start. Findings were evaluated over 10 years and a lifetime from healthcare and societal perspectives. Uncertainty was evaluated in a one-way analysis by assuming 50% industry compliance, and probabilistic sensitivity analyses via a second-order Monte Carlo approach. Model outputs included averted diabetes cases, CVD events and CVD deaths, QALYs gained, and formal healthcare cost savings, stratified by age, race, income and education.

Results: Achieving the NSSRI sugar reduction targets could prevent 2.48 million CVD events, 0.49 million CVD deaths, and 0.75 million diabetes cases; gain 6.67 million QALYs; and save $160.88 billion net costs from a societal perspective over a lifetime. The policy became cost-effective (<150K/QALYs) at 6 years, highly cost-effective (< 50K/QALYs) at 7 years, and cost-saving at 9 years. Results were robust from a healthcare perspective, with lower (50%) industry compliance, and in probabilistic sensitivity analyses. The policy could also reduce disparities, with greatest estimated health gains per million adults among Black and Hispanic, lower income, and less educated Americans.

Conclusions: Implementing and achieving the NSSRI sugar reformation targets could generate substantial health gains, equity gains and cost-savings.

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