Sugary drinks have been out of the news lately. Other health topics have been occupying public attention.
But that doesn't mean evidence has stopped mounting for the harmful effects of sugary drinks on health.
The most recent study, published in the journal Circulation, found drinking sugary drinks is associated with an increased risk of premature death - in particular death from cardiovascular disease, but also from cancer.
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) include caffeinated and non-caffeinated colas, other carbonated sugary drinks and non-carbonated beverages such as iced teas and fruit drinks. This study didn't include fruit juice, which some experts would put in the same category.
Research in the past hasn't looked specifically at the risk of premature death linked with sugary drinks. What's been established is that drinking the sweet stuff is associated with a range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
But in this study researchers found that over the long term, the more SSBs someone drank, the more the risk of early death from any cause increased. The dose makes the poison, you could say. The risk was more pronounced for women - those who consumed two or more SSBs a day had a 63 per cent higher risk of death compared to those who drank SSBs less than once a month.
This study also found some interesting things with artificially sweetened drinks. Replacing your sugary drinks with artificially sweetened "sugar free" beverages would seem to be a good idea – to a point. Drinking one artificially sweetened beverage a day instead of a sugary one lowered the risk of premature death.
But drinking four or more of these in a day was associated with increased risk of premature death from heart disease in women. The researchers say this needs to be studied further.
Hot on the heels of this comes further calls from health professionals for taxes and other measures on sugary drinks. In the USA, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association released joint recommendations encouraging policies to reduce children's intake of sugary drinks. It's the first time the time AAP has recommended an SSB tax; it says education alone hasn't worked and it's time for regulation. They also called for added sugars to be highlighted on food labels and menus.
This will come as no news to public health experts here, who have been calling for taxes on sugary drinks for years, along with other measures like stricter controls on advertising targeting children. The idea of a tax on sugary drinks has become more acceptable to the public over the years. And drinks companies are already primed, releasing more and more sugar-free options.
Despite this, the government has so far been strangely quiet on the topic of an SSB tax. To, it's fair to say, disappointment among many in public health. Half way through its first term, it feels like the time to get some action going on this is now.
• Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide; www.healthyfood.com