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Sugary drinks may contribute to early death

Although it’s common knowledge that sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks aren’t good for you, new research sheds more light on just how bad they actually are. 

A large, long-term study shows that sugar-sweetened beverages [SSBs] including sodas, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks and others, are the single largest source of added sugar in the average American’s diet. It also found that the more of those beverages people consume, the greater their risk of dying early, particular of cardiovascular disease and to a lesser extent from cancer. The risk was higher among women than men.

The Harvard-led study followed more than 80,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and nearly 38,000 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Both groups were followed for more than 30 years. 

Its findings are alarming considering there has been a recent uptick in consumption of SSBs among U.S. adults, millions of whom consume these beverages on a daily basis. 

The risk of early death uncovered in the study was significant, especially a heightened risk of dying of cardiovascular disease [CVD]. Compared with drinking less than one SSB per month, for example, those who drank two or more servings per day had a 31% greater risk of early death from CVD. From there, each additional serving per day was linked with a 10% higher risk of CVD-related death. 

“Our results provide further support to limit intake of SSBs and to replace them with other beverages – preferably water – to improve overall health and longevity,” said Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in Harvard’s Department of Nutrition and lead author of the study.

Interestingly, the study also found that drinking one artificially sweetened beverage every day actually lowered the risk of premature death – so that daily Diet Coke habit may not place one at higher risk. However, four or more artificially sweetened beverages consumed per day did raise premature death risk, although only for women. 

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