Soft Drinks: Too Much of a Bad Thing?
Regular Drinking May Indicate Overall Unhealthy Lifestyle
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 24, 2004 -- Sugar-sweetened sodas and fruit punch, already considered
notorious contributors to childhood obesity, can also lead to serious health
problems in adults -- and may even indicate an overall unhealthy lifestyle,
suggests new research.
The study shows that women who increased their intake of sugar-sweetened
soft drinks or fruit punch from one can per week to one per day gained more
weight and doubled their risk of type 2 diabetes compared with women who did
not increase their intake. Diet soft drinks were not associated with increased
What's more, these women usually live a less healthy lifestyle and get more
Meanwhile, those who increased their intake of fruit juice also experienced
weight gain but no increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The women in the study were from the ongoing Nurses Health Study and were
practicing nurses between ages 24 and 44 during the study period. The study
appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical
Researcher JoAnn E. Manson, MD, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and
Women's Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says her
team expected to find a significant weight gain among the study participants
consuming the most sugar-sweetened soft drinks. "These drinks are pretty
much liquid candy -- just sugar and water," she tells WebMD.
"But we didn't think it would lead to this great an increase in type 2
diabetes risk. It's pretty substantial, an 83% increased risk among women
having one can of soda a day and a doubling among those having fruit punch
Doctors Should Ask About Soda Intake
These findings prompted one expert to call upon doctors to specifically ask
their patients, whether children or adults, about their intake of
sugar-sweetened soft drinks -- just as they do about other factors known to
cause health problems.
"They should be asking this if they are interested in helping their
patients lose weight," says Caroline M. Apovian, MD, of Boston University
School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study but wrote an accompanying
editorial to it. "They may not be doing that now, but I think this study is
going to change that."
Apovian tells WebMD that some of the study's findings are consistent with
her own research, expected to be published in coming months.
"My group is looking at food patterns and overall health, and we're
finding that soda consumption is indeed a marker for a general non-healthy
lifestyle," she says.
While more study is needed to determine exactly why people who frequently
drink these "junk beverages" are more likely to smoke and less likely
to eat healthfully and exercise regularly, it's clear how these drinks can hurt
health on their own.
Empty Calories Don't Satisfy Hunger
A 12 ounce can of non-diet soda contains about 150 calories and between 40
and 50 grams of sugar. If someone drinks one can a day without cutting back on
other calories, that alone can lead to a 15-pound weight gain in only one year,
says Apovian, a diabetes and nutrition specialist. Generally, each pound of
weight gain results from an intake of an additional 3,500 calories not burned
off with exercise.