DALLAS — Research appearing online March 18 in the journal Circulation showed an association between frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Another association, although to a lesser extent, was found between frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and death from cancer.
Researchers examined data from 37,716 men in the Health Professionals follow-up study (1986 to 2014) and 80,647 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1980 to 2014). The researchers controlled for other dietary factors, physical activity and body mass index so that any effect measured could be linked independently with sugar-sweetened beverages.
Women who drank two or more servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day had a 63% higher risk of death than those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages less than once per month. The percentage was 29% for men.
People who consumed two or more servings per day of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 31% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease when compared to infrequent consumers. The study found increasing sugar-sweetened beverages by one per day was associated with a 7% higher risk of death. Substituting one sugar-sweetened drink a day with an artificially sweetened drink was associated with a slightly lower risk of dying, but drinking four or more artificially sweetened drinks a day was associated with a higher risk of death among women.
“Drinking water in place of sugary drinks is a healthy choice that could contribute to longevity,” said Vasanti Malik, Sc.D., lead author on the paper and a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Diet soda may be used to help frequent consumers of sugary drinks cut back their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice.”
The National Institutes of Health funded the study, which may be found here. Sugar-sweetened beverages include carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sports drinks that contain added caloric sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose or fruit juice concentrate, according to the study. The American Heart Association, Dallas, publishes Circulation.
The American Beverage Association, Washington, responded that more than just beverages contain sugar.
“Soft drinks, like all the beverages made by our industry, are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet,” said William Dermody, vice-president of media and public affairs for the A.B.A. “The sugar used in our beverages is the same as sugar used in other food products. We don’t think anyone should overconsume sugar. That’s why we’re working to reduce the sugar people consume from beverages across the country. Additionally, low- and no-calorie sweeteners have been repeatedly confirmed as safe by regulatory bodies around the world.”