July 15, 2018

Does Your Guy Drink Soda? He May Want to Think Again.

A new Harvard study, published in the journal Circulation, found that men who drink sugary beverages may have a higher risk of heart attack. The beverages in the study included sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sugar-sweetened water.

And the more sodas he drinks, the higher the risk. Two high-sugar drinks a day were linked to a 42% increase in risk. Three sodas? A 69% increase. Apparently sugar intake is associated with higher levels of intermediate biomarkers, such as c-reactive protein levels (CRP), that indicate inflammation. Inflammation is a key factor in the development of heart disease.

The Health Professionals Follow-up study examined 42,883 men. Men in the top fourth of sugar-sweetened beverage intake had a 20% higher relative risk of coronary heart disease than those in the bottom fourth, after adjusting for age, physical activity, diet, smoking, alcohol, family history, BMI, vitamin use, and other factors.

The Nurses’ Health Study followed women and found similar results. In 2009, that study revealed that women who drank between one and two sodas or sugary drinks a day had a 23% increased risk of a heart attack.

The researchers said the results were notable, since one drink per day is considered “modest consumption”. Dr. Frank Hu, the lead author of the study said, “These drinks should be treated as a treat, not for all the time.”

While diet sodas did not have the same association with heart disease, researchers don’t want to suggest people drink those instead, since artificial sweeteners can increase the craving for sugar, and the long-term effects of those chemicals aren’t known.

Nutritionists recommend that you drink plain water or tea instead of sweetened beverages and sodas.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) disputed the findings. The ABA released a statement that said, in part, “Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study or any other study in the available science.” They added, “Heart disease is a complex problem with no single cause and no simple solution.”

The ABA also said that the subjects in the study were almost all white men of European descent ages 40 to 75, limiting the study’s conclusions. And while the study reported changes in biomarkers of cardiovascular health, “this is not the same as increased cardiovascular disease.”

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