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Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Affect More than Kids' Weight
You're probably well aware that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas or sweetened fruit juices can lead to overweight or obesity through the additional calories they contain. And you're probably also well aware that those who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of health problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer.

Visualize the Sugar
I've written easily half a dozen reports on different research articles focusing on the effects of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages on your weight and your kids' weight as well as contributing to high blood pressure, poorer cholesterol scores, diabetes, gout, and kidney disease.

Added sugars may affect heart health risk factors in children
Last week I shared a meta-analysis that concluded that higher levels of sugar intake in an adult's diet were "strongly associated with higher triglycerides, total as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and blood pressure." While that study was interested intotal sugars and not strictly added sugars, this week's study suggests that those effects are not limited to adults.


 

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Sugary Beverages and Your Health



I've been saying for years that folks should avoid drinking soda if only because of the extra calories. In the last few years a fair bit of research has been done on sugar-sweetened beverages and their contribution not only to weight gain but also conditions such as Metabolic Syndrome, gout, heart disease, high blood pressure and poor cholesterol scores.

Recently a team of researchers at Harvard published an overview of current research on sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders in the journal Physiology & Behavior (2010;100(1):47-54).

Here are just a few highlights of the articles they mention which cite large-scale studies:

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Obesity

A study of over 50,000 women showed that in a six-year period, those women who increased their intake of sugared-sweetened beverages from at least 1 serving per week to 1 serving per day or more gained the most weight. Those who decreased their intake gained the least.

A study of 4,000 people over 4 years showed that those who drank at least one soft drink (sugar-sweetened or diet) were 37% more likely to become obese than those who did not drink soft drinks.

Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

A study of 50,000 women over 8 years showed that those who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day were 40% more likely, regardless of their weight, to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one per month.

A study of 40,000 black women for 10 years saw those women who drank 2 or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day were 24% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but this effect disappeared when the women's weight was also taken into account.

A study of 6,000 adults over 4 years showed that those who drank at least one (diet or regular) soft drink per day were 39% more likely to develop Metabolic Syndrome.

High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Scores, Heart Disease

A series of large-scale studies known as the NHS I and NHS II Cohorts showed that women who drank 4 or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day were 44% (in NHS I) and 28% (NHS II) more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who drank those beverages less often.

A study of over 88,000 women over 24 years found that those who drank at least 2 sugar-sweetened beverages per day were 35% more likely to develop heart disease, even when other risk factors were taken into account.

NHANES data (another long-term, large scale study), showed that a link between high blood pressure in adolescents and the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages they drank.

Gout, Gallstones, and Kidney Disease

High uric acid levels in the blood is a precursor of gout. Those who drink 1-3 sugar-sweetened beverages per day were 51% more likely to develop hyperuricemia (high uric acid levels) than those who did not drink such beverages (this also from NHANES data).

NHS II data showed a link between sucrose consumption and kidney stones: women who had the highest levels of sucrose in their diet were 31% more likely to develop kidney stones than those women with the least sucrose in their diet.

A higher intake of refined sugars, such as sucrose and fructose is also associated with gallstones - an intake of about 40 grams of sugars per day doubles the risk of gallstones. (A typical 12 ounce serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage contains an average of 35-37.5 grams of sugar.)

What this means for you

Taken altogether these findings are very concerning - and they should be. Other studies have shown that when comparing a food snack with a sugar-sweetened beverage, those who had the sugar-sweetened beverage did not reduce their food intake at their next meal, while those who ate a food snack of the same number of calories did. Further, those who drink sugar-sweetened beverages instead of water may actually eat more at their subsequent meals. Water should be #1 your drink of choice, followed by unsweetened coffee or tea.

First posted: November 3, 2010