The evidence linking sugar-sweetened beverages with an array of health problems — including obesity and diabetes — keeps piling up. And a new study adds one more potential risk to the list: coronary heart disease.
Men have a 20 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who drink none.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health tracked nearly 43,000 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which included male dentists, pharmacists, physicians, veterinarians and other health professionals ages 40 to 75, almost all of whom were of European descent.
For 22 years, the men filled out surveys about their diets and other health habits. The researchers also collected blood samples from more than 18,000 men who were demographically similar to those in the survey.
The results, published today in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, found that drinking 12 ounces of regular soda, fruit drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages daily was associated with a higher risk of heart disease, even after taking into account other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol use and a family history of heart disease.
Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and the lead author of the study, said the findings were notable because even relatively modest consumption of sugary beverages – just one drink per day – was associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
“These drinks should be treated as a treat, not for all the time,” Hu said.
Sugar-sweetened beverages include regular soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and sugar-sweetened water.
A 2011 report from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 25 percent of Americans drink the equivalent of more than one can of soda each day. The study also found that men who drank daily sugar-sweetened beverages had certain markers of cardiovascular disease in their blood, including higher levels of lipids like triglycerides and lower levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.