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1 Daily Soda May Boost Heart Disease

Researchers Point Finger at Diet, Regular Sodas; Industry Officials Disagree

Study Details continued...

As the study progressed, drinking one or more sodas a day was linked with a 44% higher risk of participants developing metabolic syndrome, Vasan's team found, compared with drinking less than a soda a day.

The researchers looked at soda consumption and the person's risk of developing each of the five criteria of metabolic syndrome. "Other than elevated blood pressure, the risk of developing the other four increased from about 20% to 30% with one soda a day," Vasan tells WebMD. They also found a trend toward an increased risk of developing high blood pressure with soda consumption, but it wasn't enough to be considered significant.

Explaining the Soda-Heart Disease Link

The link between soda consumption and heart disease risk factors "might be reflecting dietary behavior," Vasan says. "We know people who drink sodas have a greater intake of calories."

Soda drinkers, he says, are more likely to have a less healthy lifestyle pattern, such as eating fries, chips, and other high-fat foods. "They tend to smoke more and exercise less," he says.

Even after adjusting for intake of fat, fiber consumption, total calories, smoking, and physical activity, he says, there was still a link between soft drink intake and metabolic risk factors.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that consumption of soda is a marker of risk -- meaning it tracks with behavior that promotes the risk of metabolic syndrome -- rather than a true risk factor," Vasan says.

Other possible explanations: Drinking more sweet beverages could condition you to have a greater preference for eating more sweets, Vasan says, which could increase your weight and your waist size. Or if you drink a large soft drink with a meal, you may be hungrier and eat more at the next meal.

The findings don’t surprise Paul Lachance, PhD, acting director of The Nutraceuticals Institute at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and a diet and health expert for the Institute of Food Technologists. “It’s plausible,” he says of the link between soda intake and increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

But he wonders about the true root of the association. It may not be the soda intake itself leading to the increased risk, he says. “People who drink sodas may be giving up drinking healthier beverages,” he says, such as juices, milk, wine, and other beverages.

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