Sweetened Drinks May Damage Heart, Review Finds
By Dennis Thompson
The added sugar in sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas and energy drinks affects the body in ways that increase risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke, said review author Vasanti Malik, a nutrition research scientist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Consuming one or two servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to a 35 percent greater risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease, a 16 percent increased risk of stroke and as much as a 26 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the report concluded.
“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,” Malik said. “It’s not the only thing that needs to be done, but it’s a very important thing.
The report, published Sept. 28 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is part of a new focus on excess sugar as a risk for heart disease, said Marina Chaparro, a clinical dietitian at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.
“Previously, everything focused on low fat, and reducing fat and cholesterol,” said Chaparro, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The dietary guidelines that are about to come out really focus on added sugars, and not as much on cholesterol and total fat. Those are important, but the impact of sugar has become much more profound.”
Sugar-sweetened beverages account for about one-half of added sugars in the U.S. diet, Malik said. One can of regular soda contains about 35 grams of sugar, which is equal to nearly nine teaspoons.
Manufacturers most often use either table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten beverages, researchers said. Both sugar sources contain roughly equal parts of two simple sugars, fructose and glucose.
Researchers believe both fructose and glucose damage the heart. Glucose spikes blood glucose and causes insulin levels to rise, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, Malik said. Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease.