More reports on: Soft drinks

Can that cola: soft drinks hazardous to health

01 October 2015

Soft drinks and other beverages that are sweetened with sugar can seriously put a person's cardiovascular health at risk, a new study review finds.

The additional sugar added to soft drinks, sweet teas, fruit drinks and energy drinks can have impacts on the body that can elevate the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease, the review authors report.

Just one or two sugar-sweetened beverages consumed every day can increase the risk of heart attack or fatal cardiovascular disease by 35 per cent, up the risk of stroke by 16 per cent and put people at a 26 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, says nutrition research scientist Vasanti Malik at Harvard's T H Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

"Reducing the consumption of these drinks, it's not going to solve the heart disease epidemic, but it's one step that can have a measurable impact," he says. "It's not the only thing that needs to be done, but it's a very important thing."

One key finding of the comprehensive review of studies on the health effects of sweet beverages is the role that fructose plays in developing cardiovascular conditions, the researchers noted.

Unlike other forms of sugar, like glucose, which are joined by insulin as they move into cells for the body to use as fuel, fructose can go in alone. When processed in the liver, it can be converted into triglycerides.

Also known as blood fats, triglycerides can result in insulin resistance, a leading cause of both diabetes and heart disease, the researchers say.

"Since we rarely consume fructose in isolation, the major source of fructose in the diet comes from fructose-containing sugars, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, in sugar-sweetened beverages," says review lead author Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard school. "Our findings underscore the urgent need for public health strategies that reduce the consumption of these drinks."

In addition to heart problems, sugary drinks have also been linked to conditions such as gallstones, gout and kidney stones, the researchers report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

This onslaught of sugar isn't limited to beverages, they say; sugar is also heavily present in foods like desserts, candy, breakfast cereals and toppings and syrups.

Recommendations from the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee call for no more than 10 per cent of total calories consumed daily be comprised of sugar.

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