According to a review paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, consuming too many sugary beverages — meaning the drinks that contain sugars in the form of high fructose corn syrup or table sugar (sucrose) — can lead to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, the study experts found that just sipping one or two servings a day has shown to increase risk of:
- Heart attack or fatal heart disease by 35 percent
- Developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent
- Stroke by 16 percent
“This is particularly concerning as the research shows that consuming one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day has been linked to greater weight gain and obesity in numerous published studies,” said lead investigator Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a formal statement. “Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain because the liquid calories are not filling, and so people don’t reduce their food intake at subsequent meals.”
While the overall consumption of sugary beverages has been on the decline, they continue to remain the greatest source of added sugar intake in the typical U.S. diet. It’s been estimated that 50 percent of Americans drink these types of refreshments each day, with 25 percent of the public taking in 200 calories per day and 5 percent ingesting more than 500 calories a day.
The researchers explain that unlike glucose (another form of sugar), which is absorbed in the bloodstream and can be used as fuel, fructose, which is the type of sugar used to sweeten most sodas, is metabolized in the liver where it can be converted to fatty compounds. The end result—it can lead to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance, a key risk factor for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“I am not surprised at all about these findings,” Keri Glassman, nutritionist and founder of Nutritious Life, who was not involved in the study, tells Yahoo Health. “We have known for so long that sugar calories, especially in liquid form like soda, are extremely bad for us. They affect us hormonally and greatly increase our risk of diseases.”
Glassman explains that the absence of nutrients in these types of drinks “means there’s no satisfaction, making you want to eat even more.” Also, beverages made from fructose—where the sweetener high fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch—“are absorbed quickly into our system and turned into fat.”
For the sweet soda lover, Glassman suggests swapping the cola for club soda. “Add whole pieces of fruit, in order to the sweet flavor mixed with the bubbly.” Another flavored drink option she offers is unsweetened iced herbal tea.
The researchers concluded their report with this statement: “Although reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or added sugar alone is unlikely to solve the obesity epidemic entirely, limiting intake is one simple change that will have a measurable impact on weight control and prevention of cardio-metabolic diseases.”-shaw