A new Harvard study claims that drinking just one sugar-sweetened carbonated or non-carbonated drink every day (about 350 ml) could increase the risk of heart disease in men by 20 percent.
According to the study published in the journal Circulation, of the American Heart Association, the results were based on data gathered from 42,883 men in a Health Professionals Follow-up study. During the period, there were 3,683 heart attacks in the men, some fatal, some not. The study results suggested that taking a sugar-sweetened drink a day increased the risk of heart attack by 20 percent in men. However, drinks based on artificial sweeteners were not found to increase the risk of heart attack.
The participants in the study were asked every two years, between 1986 and 2008, to provide information about their diet. They also provided a blood sample midway through the survey. The participants were mostly Caucasian men between 40 and 75 years old.
The study found that the higher the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, the higher the related risk of heart disease. According to MSNBC, the risk rises with increasing consumption: two sugar-sweetened drinks increased risk by 42 percent, and three increased risk by 69 percent.
Science Daily reports that the study, after controlling for other factors such as smoking, sedentary lifestyle, family history of heart disease, body weight, and alcohol use, which contribute to risk of heart disease, still found that an increase in heart disease risk from taking sugar-sweetened drinks persisted.
Daily Mail reports that lead author Lawrence de Koning, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the body appears to compensate for "sugar rush" that follows intake of sugary drinks by making fats that are bad for the heart. Koning's conclusion was based on blood sample tests that showed that the men who drank sugar-sweetened beverages tended to have higher levels of "bad" fats and proteins, linked to higher incidence of heart disease, and lower levels of "good" cholesterol linked to lower incidence of heart disease.
The researchers measured blood levels of lipids and proteins known to be biomarkers of heart disease. These included the inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP), "bad" lipids called triglycerides and "good" lipids called high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The study found that men who drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily had higher triglyceride and CRP, and lower HDL levels.
Lead author de Koning, said that although the study found no link between drinking artificially sweetened beverages and risk of cardiovascular diseases, he insisted that there are "better choices." He said: "Water, coffee and tea are probably the best choices, after that would be low-fat milk. It is not clear whether fruit juice is a good replacement. There is a lot of sugar in it but it does have added benefits such as vitamins and fibre."
MSNBC reports that de Koning advises people to reduce their intake of sodas and then eliminate them altogether.
According to Science Daily, Frank Hu, lead author of the study, and professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass., said: "This study adds to the growing evidence that sugary beverages are detrimental to cardiovascular health. Certainly, it provides strong justification for reducing sugary beverage consumption among patients and, more importantly, in the general population."
MSNBC reports that Dr. Y. Claire Yang, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, also said the study contributes to the growing body of evidence that sugar-sweetened beverages are harmful to health. He said: “At the end of the day, the best thing to drink is still water."
Daily Mail reports that Tracy Parker of the British Heart Foundation, said: "While we need more research to understand how else sugary drinks may affect our heart health, the study reminds us that they shouldn’t be a daily part of our diet. Go for healthier alternatives such as water, low-fat milk, or unsweetened juices, which are kinder to our waistlines as well as our heart."
Daily Mail also reports that The British Soft Drinks Association has rejected the results of the study. A spokesman for the association, said: "Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study nor any other study in the available science. The authors found an association between consuming sweetened beverages and cardiovascular risk, but this could have been the result of other lifestyle changes over the 22-year study period."