Posted on Mar 19, 2019, 8 p.m.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health research suggest the more sugar sweetened beverages people drink as adults the greater the risk of death, especially from cardiovascular disease and to a lesser extent cancer, as published in Circulation.
Findings stem from analysis of 2 large prospective cohorts of adults which indicates the link between sugar sweetened beverage consumption and increased mortality risk was stronger among women than in men. Moderate consumption of artificially sweetened beverages as an alternative did slightly lower the risk of death, but drinking 4+ a day was also associated with a higher risk of death for women as well.
“Diet soda may be used to help cut back frequent intake, but water is still the healthier choice; findings provide further evidence to support limiting intake of sweetened drinks and to replace them with other beverages, preferably water to improve overall health and longevity.” says Vasanti Malik.
Sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the average American diet, such drinks include carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, sport and energy drinks, and fruit juices that contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, or fruit juices from concentrates. A single serving of soda may contain 35-37.5 grams of sugar, on average American adults consume 145 calories a day from such drinks which is about 6.5% of their energy intake. Younger adults may drink even more, such beverages may contribute to as much as 9.3% of their calorie intake, and these levels nearly exceed dietary recommendations for consuming no more than 10% of total energy from all added sugars.
Epidemiological studies have linked these drinks to weight gain and higher risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease, but few studies have examined the links with these drinks to mortality.
Dietary and other lifestyle choice data was analysed from 80,647 women aged 30-55 in the NHS study between 1980-2014; and data from 37,716 men aged 40-75 in the HPFS study from 1986-2014. A strong link between these drinks and increased risk of early death was identified after controlling for other dietary and lifestyle factors. When compared to consuming a sugary drink once a month or less drinking 1-4 per month was linked to a 1% increased mortality risk; 2-6 per week was associated with a 6% increase; 1-2 per day was associated with a 14% increase; and 2+ per day was associated with a 21% increase. A notably strong association between sugary drink consumption and death from cardiovascular disease was found. Compared to those who infrequently consumed sugary drinks those who drank 2+ servings per day exhibited a 31% higher risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease; and each additional serving increases this risk by a further 10%.
A smaller link between consumption of sugar drinks and risk of death from cancer was also observed between both cohorts. In the most extreme categories among women there was a positive association between intake of sugary drinks and breast cancer mortality; and among men a borderline positive association was observed between sugary drink intake and colon cancer; artificially sweetened drinks in the highest category was similarly associated with risk of total and cardiovascular mortality.
Findings are consistent with known adverse effects of high sugar intake on metabolic risk factors and evidence of such drinks increasing the risk of disease; supports policies to limit marketing of such beverage to children and adolescents, and supports implementation of soda taxes as the current prices do not include the high cost of treating their consequences.
Consuming artificially sweetened drinks should not be assumed to be safe, as they only slightly reduced the risk of early death, and there was a link found between higher levels of ASB consumption and an increased in overall mortality due to early cardiovascular disease among women. “ASBs could be used to replace habitual SSB intake to cut down, but higher consumption of artificially sweetened beverages should also be discouraged.”
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