OBJECTIVES: Excessive consumption of added sugars in the human diet has been associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes (T2D), coronary heart disease (CHD) and other elements of the metabolic syndrome. Recent studies have shown that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a critical pathway to metabolic syndrome. This model assesses the health and economic benefits of interventions aimed at reducing intake of added sugars.

METHODS: Using data from US National Health Surveys and current literature, we simulated an open cohort, for the period 2015-2035. We constructed a microsimulation model with Markov chains for NAFLD (including steatosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)), body mass index, T2D and CHD. We assessed reductions in population disease prevalence, disease-attributable disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and costs, with interventions that reduce added sugars consumption by either 20% or 50%.

FINDINGS: The model estimated that a 20% reduction in added sugars intake will reduce prevalence of hepatic steatosis, NASH, cirrhosis, HCC, obesity, T2D and CHD. Incidence of T2D and CHD would be expected to decrease by 19.9 (95% CI 12.8 to 27.0) and 9.4 (95% CI 3.1 to 15.8) cases per 100 000 people after 20 years, respectively. A 20% reduction in consumption is also projected to annually avert 0.767 million (M) DALYs (95% CI 0.757M to 0.777M) and a total of US$10.3 billion (B) (95% CI 10.2B to 10.4B) in discounted direct medical costs by 2035. These effects increased proportionally when added sugars intake were reduced by 50%.

CONCLUSIONS: The decrease in incidence and prevalence of disease is similar to results in other models, but averted costs and DALYs were higher, mainly due to inclusion of NAFLD and CHD. The model suggests that efforts to reduce consumption of added sugars may result in significant public health and economic benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere013543
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2017


  • Coronary Disease/etiology
  • Diet
  • Dietary Sugars/administration & dosage
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Metabolic Syndrome/etiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease/etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • United States


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