4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/12/2018   
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SUGAR SWEETENED DRINKS AND DIET DRINKS

Discretionary foods such as Selected Sugar Sweetened and Diet drinks are not an essential part of a healthy diet and a limited intake of these food items is recommended in the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines. Selected Sugar Sweetened and Diet drinks are classified as a discretionary food item as they tend to have little nutritional value. High and frequent intake of these drinks may lead to adverse health outcomes, such as dental caries, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of weight gain in both adults and children. Limiting the intake of discretionary foods such as Selected Sugar Sweetened and Diet drinks may lead individuals to better manage adverse health conditions[1].

Definitions

There are a range of different definitions for sweetened drinks both nationally and internationally. For the purpose of the National Health Survey (NHS) 2017-18, Selected Sweetened drinks include both Selected Sugar Sweetened drinks and Diet drinks.
  • Sugar Sweetened drinks includes soft drink, cordials, sports drinks or caffeinated energy drinks. May include soft drinks in ready to drink alcoholic beverages. This definition excludes fruit juice, flavoured milk, 'sugar free' drinks, or coffee/hot tea. In this commentary, selected sugar sweetened drinks is referred to as sugar drinks. Sugar sweetened drinks were reported based on usual consumption per day/week.
  • Diet drinks are drinks that have artificial sweeteners added to them rather than sugar and includes diet soft drink, cordials, sports drinks or caffeinated energy drinks. These may also include diet soft drinks in ready to drink alcoholic beverages. This definition excludes non-diet drinks, fruit juice, flavoured milk, water or flavoured water, or coffee/tea flavoured with sugar replacements for example 'Equal'. Diet drinks were reported based on usual consumption per day/week.

Note the inclusions and collection methodology are slightly different to the definition of 'Sugar Sweetened beverages', previously published in the Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results (NNPAS)[2]. 'Sugar sweetened beverages' also included fruit and vegetable drinks that contain added sugar, with data based on 24-hour dietary recall information.

HOW MUCH CONSUMPTION IS RECOMMENDED?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013), provides Australians with recommendations on the amounts and types of foods that are required to maintain health and well-being as well as reduce the risk of diet related conditions and risks of chronic disease. Guideline 3 recommends individuals 'limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks'[3]. More information on the dietary guidelines can be found in the glossary.

HOW MANY PEOPLE CONSUME?

Around one in two (48.0%) adults consume either sugar sweetened drinks or diet drinks at least once per week. Sugar sweetened drinks were more popular than diet drinks with 36.2% of people consuming sugar sweetened drinks at least once per week compared with 17.7% of people consuming diet drinks. One in eleven people (9.1%) consume sugar sweetened drinks daily, while 22.6% consume them on 1-3 days per week and 63.8% did not consume them. By comparison, one in twenty people (4.8%) consume diet drinks daily, 10.3% 1-3 days per week and 82.3% do not consume.

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Number of days per week usually consume sugar sweetened or diet drinks, 2017-18

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18


WHO CONSUMES?

Men were more likely to consume both sugar sweetened drinks and diet drinks than women. Overall, 44.3% of men consume sugar sweetened drinks at least once per week compared with 28.5% of women. Men were also more likely to be daily consumers (11.8% compared with 6.4%). Similarly, 19.5% of men consume diet drinks at least once per week compared with 15.9% of women.

Consumption of sugar sweetened peaked among young adults (18-24 years) with 61.3% consuming at least once per week and 13.6% consuming daily. Rates of consumption declined as age increased - by 65 years and over, 18.9% of people were weekly consumers and 6.1% were daily consumers. In contrast, the same pattern was not observed for diet drinks where the proportion consuming remained relatively constant across age groups.

Graph Image for Persons who consume sugar sweetened or diet drinks - Proportion who consume at least once a week, 2017-18

Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18


Adults aged 18 years and over living in the most disadvantaged areas (first quintile) were three times (13.8%) more likely to drink sugar sweetened drinks daily compared with 4.2% of adults living in the least disadvantaged areas (fifth quintile).

A higher proportion of adults living in Outer Regional and Remote Australia consume sugar sweetened drinks daily at 13.1% compared with 9.9% living in Inner Regional Australia and 8.3% living in Major Cities.

Adults living in the Northern Territory had the highest rate of consumption of sugar sweetened drinks with one in nine (11.7%) consuming daily compared with one in fifteen (6.7%) adults in the Australian Capital Territory. The highest diet drink consumption was in South Australia with one in fifteen (6.7%) adults living consume diet drinks daily compared with the lowest prevalence in Tasmania with 3.8%.

For those who consume sugar sweetened drinks daily, Men consume an average of 3.3 cups (825 ml or 2.2 cans) per day compared with 2.5 cups (625 ml) for women. Non-daily drinkers consume an average of 0.6 cups per day for Men and 0.4 cups per day for women. A similar pattern is observed for diet drinks with male daily drinkers consuming 3.1 cups per day and women 2.6 cups per day.

ENDNOTES

1 Australian dietary guidelines, 'Discretionary food and drink choices', 2017 <https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/discretionary-food-and-drink-choices> ; last accessed 08/11/2018
2 Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12 <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/lookup/4364.0.55.007main+features12011-12>; last accessed 08/11/2018
3 Australian dietary guidelines, 'Fat, salt, sugars and alcohol', 2015 <https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol>; last accessed 08/11/2018