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1 Sugary Drink a Day May Raise Heart Risk

Study: Men Who Drank 1 Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Daily Had 20% Higher Risk of Heart Disease Than Non-Drinkers

Artificially Sweetened Drinks: Study Results

The men also reported how frequently they drank artificially sweetened drinks.

Hu didn’t find a link between drinks sweetened artificially (such as diet sodas) and heart disease or indicators of heart disease.

"But it doesn't mean diet soda is the best alternative," he says. "The data on diet soda is quite limited."

Explaining Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Heart Disease

What can explain the link? "There are at least three things going on," Hu says.

"One is increased body weight, an immediate effect [of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages]. The second thing is blood lipids. It increases triglycerides and decreases HDL."

The drinks also increase inflammatory indicators linked with heart disease, he says, such as C-reactive protein. That has been found, he says, not only in his study but also in several others.

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks and Heart Disease: Perspectives

The findings are ''hardly a surprise," says Robert Lustig, MD, professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco, who has researched childhood and adult obesity. He reviewed the findings for WebMD.

In his own research, he says, he has found a link between sugar-sweetened drinks and high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.

The new study provides some valuable information as to why the drinks and heart disease are linked, such as the inflammation effect, says Christina M. Shay, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, Lawton. In her own research, she has found a link between sugar-sweetened drinks and heart disease in women.

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks and Heart Disease: Industry Weigh-in

Charles Baker, PhD, chief science officer at the Sugar Association, takes issue with the findings.

Among the flaws, he says, is that the fourth group included a wide range. The intakes in that group ranged from 4.5 drinks a week to 7.5 a day. The researchers figured the average to be at 6.5 a week or about one a day. (Half drank more, half less.)

Baker says it was this ''data manipulation" that allowed the researchers to find the 20% increased risk.

Singling out sugar is not the answer to fighting obesity and heart disease, he says. Instead, people should reduce calories and exercise more, he says.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association says, in part, that the men studied were nearly all white men of European descent. The findings, therefore, may not apply to the general population.

Other factors, such as stress, could have played a role, the statement says.

"The authors found an association between consuming sweetened beverages and [heart disease and stroke] risk, but this could have been the result of other lifestyle changes over the 22-year study period involving men 40 to 75 years of age," it adds. 

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