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Health Warnings on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Simulation of Impacts on Diet and Obesity Among U.S. Adults

  • Anna H. Grummon
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Anna H. Grummon, PhD, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, 302 Rosenau Hall, CB # 7740, 135 Dauer Drive, Chapel Hill NC 27599.
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Natalie R. Smith
    Affiliations
    Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Shelley D. Golden
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Leah Frerichs
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Lindsey Smith Taillie
    Affiliations
    Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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  • Noel T. Brewer
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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Published:October 17, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2019.06.022

      Introduction

      Overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) is a significant contributor to obesity. Policymakers have proposed requiring health warnings on SSBs to reduce SSB consumption. Randomized trials indicate that SSB warnings reduce SSB purchases, but uncertainty remains about how warnings affect population-level dietary and health outcomes.

      Methods

      This study developed a stochastic microsimulation model of dietary behaviors and body weight using the 2005–2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, research on SSB health warnings, and a validated model of weight change. In 2019, the model simulated a national SSB health warning policy's impact on SSB intake, total energy intake, BMI, and obesity among U.S. adults over 5 years. Sensitivity analyses varied assumptions about: (1) how warning efficacy changes over time, (2) the magnitude of warnings’ impact on SSB intake, and (3) caloric compensation.

      Results

      A national SSB health warning policy would reduce average SSB intake by 25.3 calories/day (95% uncertainty interval [UI]= −27.0, −23.6) and total energy intake by 31.2 calories/day (95% UI= −32.2, −30.1). These dietary changes would reduce average BMI by 0.64 kg/m2 (95% UI= −0.67, −0.62) and obesity prevalence by 3.1 percentage points (95% UI= −3.3%, −2.8%). Obesity reductions persisted when assuming warning efficacy wanes over time and when using conservative estimates of warning impact and caloric compensation. Benefits were larger for black and Hispanic adults than for white adults, and for adults with lower SES than for those with higher SES.

      Conclusions

      A national SSB health warning policy could reduce adults’ SSB consumption and obesity prevalence. Warnings could also narrow sociodemographic disparities in these outcomes.
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