Heart Care

Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tied to Heart Disease

Men who drink one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage a day have a 20 percent higher risk for heart disease than those who don't drink any sugar-sweetened beverages, a new study says.

One reason for this increased risk, the researchers say, is that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to inflammation and higher levels of triglycerides in the blood, as well as lower levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Inflammation, high triglyceride levels, and low HDL levels are risk factors for heart disease.

"Obesity rates have increased in tandem with consumption of sugar-loaded drinks," says Kevin Marzo, M.D., at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. And the current obesity and diabetes epidemics in the U.S. will eventually lead to an increased number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, he says.

Limiting beverages

"The time for research should be over," he says. "The American Heart Association has already given [its] recommendation for not consuming more than 450 calories from sweetened drinks per week - less than three cans of soda."

For the study, researchers at Harvard University examined the health and eating habits of nearly 43,000 male health professionals over a 22-year period. The men, mostly white and 40 to 75 years old, also provided a blood sample halfway through the study period.

Men who regularly drank sugar-sweetened beverages had a heightened risk for heart disease even after the researchers took into account risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, and a family history of heart disease.

More beverages, greater impact

According to the study, published in the journal Circulation, it was the high amount of sugar that had the impact. Artificially sweetened beverages did not directly increase the risk for heart attack. Drinking sugary beverages less often - twice a week or less - also did not increase risk.

"This study adds to the growing evidence that sugary beverages are detrimental to cardiovascular health," says lead author Frank Hu, M.D., at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Hu says the study provides a strong argument for everyone to cut back on the amount of sugary beverage consumed.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Pediatrics - Fat, Salt and Sugar: Not All Bad

CDC - Consumption of Sugar Drinks in the United States

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - The Negative Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages on Children's Health

May 2012

The Sweet and Sour Facts About Sugar

Judging from food labels, a spoonful of sugar makes everything go down. You may wonder, though, how it affects your family's health.

The type of sugar known as glucose serves as the main fuel for our brains. Our bodies produce glucose from all carbohydrates, including fruits, starches like pasta and bread, and vegetables.

Table sugar itself isn't bad for you, but eating too much of it can lead to health problems. For example, sugary foods that stick to kids' teeth may cause cavities. So do bottles of sugar water given to babies at nap time.

But banning sugar at home won't necessarily keep your family at a healthy weight. And it might actually lead to secret sugar binges. Instead, teach children to eat a limited amount of foods that contain processed sugar, and try to pick more nutritious, naturally sweetened foods - like fresh fruit - whenever possible.

It's important to read food and beverage labels closely to avoid unwanted calories from added sugars. You'll find sugars labeled as sucrose, fructose, lactose, and maltose in foods. Sugars are also found in high concentrations in fruit juice concentrates, honey, and molasses.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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