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Excessive consumption of sugar, salt and saturated fat generates medical costs of 16.8 billion EUR in Germany

In a joint project researchers from the University Halle-Wittenberg (Germany) looked at the direct medical treatment costs of nutrition-associated diseases related to the overconsumption of sugars, salt and saturated fatty acids. In all, the team identified 22 clinical endpoints with 48 risk-outcome pairs.

Direct healthcare costs attributable to an unbalanced intake of fat, salt and sugar were calculated to amount to 16.8 billion EUR (CI95%: 6.3–24.1 billion EUR) in the year 2008, which represents 7% (CI95%: 2%-10%) of the total treatment costs in Germany (254 billion EUR). This is about 205 EUR per person annually.

Excessive consumption of sugar poses the highest burden, at 8.6 billion EUR (CI95%: 3.0-12.1); salt ranks 2nd at 5.3 billion EUR (CI95%:  3.2-7.3) and saturated fat ranks 3rd at 2.9 billion EUR (CI95%: 32 million-4.7 billion).

Related to the corresponding clinical endpoints the highest healthcare costs are caused by cardiovascular diseases (7.7 billion EUR), followed by dental decay (3.6 billion EUR), metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity (2.1 billion EUR) and various types of cancer (1.1 billion EUR).

Thus, predicted direct healthcare cost savings by means of a balanced intake of sugars, salt and saturated fat are substantial – both from an individual but also a macroeconomic point of view.

Abstract

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent not only the major driver for quality-restricted and lost life years; NCDs and their related medical treatment costs also pose a substantial economic burden on healthcare and intra-generational tax distribution systems. The main objective of this study was therefore to quantify the economic burden of unbalanced nutrition in Germany—in particular the effects of an excessive consumption of fat, salt and sugar—and to examine different reduction scenarios on this basis. In this study, the avoidable direct cost savings in the German healthcare system attributable to an adequate intake of saturated fatty acids (SFA), salt and sugar (mono- & disaccharides, MDS) were calculated. To this end, disease-specific healthcare cost data from the official Federal Health Monitoring for the years 2002–2008 and disease-related risk factors, obtained by thoroughly searching the literature, were used. A total of 22 clinical endpoints with 48 risk-outcome pairs were considered. Direct healthcare costs attributable to an unbalanced intake of fat, salt and sugar are calculated to be 16.8 billion EUR (CI95%: 6.3–24.1 billion EUR) in the year 2008, which represents 7% (CI95% 2%-10%) of the total treatment costs in Germany (254 billion EUR). This is equal to 205 EUR per person annually. The excessive consumption of sugar poses the highest burden, at 8.6 billion EUR (CI95%: 3.0–12.1); salt ranks 2nd at 5.3 billion EUR (CI95%: 3.2–7.3) and saturated fat ranks 3rd at 2.9 billion EUR (CI95%: 32 million—4.7 billion). Predicted direct healthcare cost savings by means of a balanced intake of sugars, salt and saturated fat are substantial. However, as this study solely considered direct medical treatment costs regarding an adequate consumption of fat, salt and sugars, the actual societal and economic gains, resulting both from direct and indirect cost savings, may easily exceed 16.8 billion EUR.

Citation

Meier, T., Senftleben, K., Deumelandt, P., Christen, O., Riedel, K., Langer, M. (2015). Healthcare Costs Associated with an Adequate Intake of Sugars, Salt and Saturated Fat in Germany: A Health Econometrical Analysis, PLOS one, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135990

The study was published in PLOS ONE and can be downloaded freely here.

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