People who drink at least two cans of soda a day are twice as likely to die from heart disease, new research warns.
However, researchers did not find this link with the consumption of sugary foods.
They believe this has something to do with the way sugary drinks flood the body with sugar, while in foods the sugar-release is slowed down by fat and protein.
The new study from Emory University is the latest in a slew of research laying bare the damning health dangers of sugar-sweetened drinks as soda sales continue to decline.
People who consume at least two cans of soda per day are more likely to die from heart disease, according to a new study
Previous studies found an association between added sugar and obesity and various chronic diseases, but few have been able to look at the association between increased sugar consumption and death.
‘There were two parts of this question we wanted to understand,’ said researcher Dr Jean Welsh, assistant professor at Emory University.
‘Do added sugars increase risk of death from heart disease or other causes, and, if so, is there a difference in risk between sugar-sweetened beverages and sugary foods?’ she added.
For the study, researchers led by Dr Welsh analyzed data of 17,930 black and white adults over the age of 45. They were were tracked for about six years.
They estimated the subjects’ food and beverage consumption using a food frequency question.
In the study, sugar-sweetened beverages included pre-sweetened liquids, such as sodas and fruit drinks. While sugary foods included desserts, candy and sweetened breakfast foods as well as foods to which calorie-containing sweeteners such as sugars or syrups had been added.
It’s not clear whether diet sodas were included in this study, but these beverages also contain artificial sweeteners that can be just as damaging as sugar.
The investigators also looked at the subjects’ death records to determine their cause of death.
They found people who consumed more sugary beverages had an increased risk of death from heart disease, such as heart attack, heart failure, and other causes.
Specifically those who consumed 24 ounces – equivalent to two cans of soda – or more of sugary beverages each day were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who consumed less than one ounce.
This effect was observed when the accounted for several factors, including income, race, education, smoking history and physical activity.
When researchers also controlled for known heart disease risk factors such as total calorie consumption, high blood pressure, and body weight, the effect remained.
However, they did not see any increased risk of death with the consumption of sugary foods.
They believe this is due to the way they are metabolized – sugary drinks do not contain any other nutrients, the body has to deal with a sudden ‘sugar rush’ while in foods the sugars are released more slowly.
‘The quantity and frequency of consumption of sugary beverages, coupled with the fact that they contain few, if any other nutrients, results in a flood of sugars that need to be metabolized,’ researchers wrote.
‘When people consume sugars in foods there are often other nutrients such as fats or proteins which slow down metabolism and may explain the different effect seen between the two,’ they added.
Previous studies have linked sugary soft drinks to an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions.
A 2014 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine found people who consumed 25 percent of more of their daily calories as added sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10 percent added sugar.
A report published by Harvard University in 2013 revealed that about 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide were associated with the consumption of sugary drinks.
Researchers of the current study said their findings should encourage doctors to ask patients about sugary beverage consumption during visits to open the door to a conversation about a dietary change that could be made to reduce risk.
‘We know that if healthcare providers don’t ask patients about lifestyle practices linked to obesity and chronic disease, patients tend to think they’re not important,’ Dr Welsh said. ‘Simply asking patients about their sugary beverage consumption is valuable.’