Drinking sugary drinks may be associated with greater risk of death

March 21, 2018, American Heart Association
Credit: S Dusseault/ public domain

Adults over the age of 45 who consume large amounts of sugary beverages including soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices may have a higher risk of dying from heart disease or other causes, compared to those who drink fewer sugary drinks, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention / Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in population based cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

The researchers found a graded association between consuming more sugary beverages and an of death from heart disease or any cause. Study participants in the top 25 percent of consumers, those who tended to drink 24 ounces or more of sugary beverages each day, had twice the risk of death from compared to those in the lowest 25 percent of people who drank less than 1 ounce. In addition, there was an increased risk of death from all causes, including other cardiovascular conditions. The study, however, found no link between the consumption of and increased risk of death, a distinction the researchers said may be related to how sugary drinks and foods are processed by the body.

Several studies have shown an association between added sugar and obesity and various chronic diseases. However, few have been able to look at the association between increased sugar consumption and death. It is important to note that this study does not prove cause and effect, rather it identifies a trend.

"There were two parts of this question we wanted to understand," said Jean Welsh, Ph.D., M.P.H., study author, assistant professor at Emory University and a research director with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "Do added sugars increase risk of death from heart disease or other causes, and, if so, is there a difference in risk between and sugary foods? We believe this study adds strong data to what already exists highlighting the importance of minimizing sugary beverages in our diet."

This study used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, a U.S.-based longitudinal study of 30,183 black and white adults over age 45. The final study population was 17,930 after excluding those with a self-reported history of heart disease, as well as stroke and Type 2 diabetes. This type of study is designed to find an association or trend, not to prove cause and effect.

The researchers estimated sugary food and beverage consumption using a frequency questionnaire. Sugar-sweetened beverages included those pre-sweetened, such as sodas and . Sugar-sweetened foods included desserts, candy and sweetened breakfast foods as well as foods to which calorie-containing sweeteners such as sugars or syrups had been added.

The participants were followed for an average of about 6 years, and researchers used death records to look at the cause of , focusing on deaths from heart disease, such as heart attack, failure and deaths from all other causes.

The researchers observed this effect when they statistically made the participants equal with respect to income, race, education, smoking history and physical activity. When they controlled for known risk factors such as total calorie consumption, high blood pressure, abnormalities in blood lipids or body weight, the effect remained. Researchers did not see any increased risk with consumption of sugary foods.

The quantity and frequency of consumption of sugary beverages, coupled with the fact that they contain few, if any other nutrients, results in a flood of sugars that need to be metabolized, Welsh said. When people consume sugars in foods there are often other nutrients such as fats or proteins which slow down metabolism and may explain the different effect seen between the two.

The study's finding should encourage healthcare providers to ask patients about sugary beverage consumption during well visits to open the door to a conversation about a dietary change that could be made to reduce risk, Welsh said.

"We know that if healthcare providers don't ask patients about lifestyle practices linked to obesity and chronic disease, patients tend to think they're not important," Welsh said. "Simply asking patients about their sugary beverage consumption is valuable."

Explore further: 180,000 deaths worldwide may be associated with sugary soft drinks

Related Stories

180,000 deaths worldwide may be associated with sugary soft drinks

March 19, 2013
Sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks may be associated with about 180,000 deaths around the world each year, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, ...

Kids' sugary drink habits start early

January 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—Despite health messages to limit sodas and other sugary beverages, most American children drink them often, new government statistics show.

Consuming sugary drinks during pregnancy may increase asthma risk in mid-childhood

December 8, 2017
Children between the ages of 7 and 9 may be at greater risk for developing asthma if they consumed high amounts of fructose in early childhood or their mothers drank a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages while pregnant, according ...

Eliminate sweetened drinks, cut kids' sugar intake

September 26, 2016
(HealthDay)—Looking for the quickest way to cut added sugar from your kid's diet?

Sugar-sweetened drinks linked to increased risk of heart disease in men

March 12, 2012
Men who drank a 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage a day had a 20 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to men who didn't drink any sugar-sweetened drinks, according to research published in Circulation, an American ...

American Heart Association comments on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes to address obesity

November 6, 2013
The American Heart Association issued the following comments on a recent article published by the British Medical Journal focusing on a study of the impact of sugar sweetened drink taxes:

Recommended for you

Physical activity necessary to maintain heart-healthy lifestyle

September 24, 2018
Exercise and physical activity are of vast global importance to prevent and control the increasing problem of heart disease and stroke, according to a review paper published today in the Journal of the American College of ...

Height may be risk factor for varicose veins, study finds

September 24, 2018
The taller you are, the more likely you are to develop varicose veins, according to a study led by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers that examined the genes of more than 400,000 people in search of clues ...

Prosthetic valve mismatches common in transcatheter valve replacement, ups risk of death

September 24, 2018
In the largest multi-institutional study to date, led by researchers from Penn Medicine, the team found that among patients who underwent a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a high number experienced severe and ...

Study reveals a promising alternative to corticosteroids in acute renal failure treatment

September 21, 2018
A protein produced by the human body appears to be a promising new drug candidate to treat conditions that lead to acute renal failure. This is shown by a study conducted at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in São José ...

Can a common heart condition cause sudden death?

September 20, 2018
About one person out of 500 has a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This condition causes thickening of the heart muscle and results in defects in the heart's electrical system. Under conditions ...

New drugs could reduce risk of heart disease when added to statins

September 20, 2018
New drugs that lower levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in blood could further reduce the risk of heart attack when added to statins. These new drugs, which are in various stages of development, could also reduce blood ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

AmeriBev
not rated yet Mar 23, 2018
These are only the preliminary findings for a study yet to be released, but its authors acknowledge that the study can in no way determine if beverages with sugar cause these conditions. As the U.S. Dietary Guidelines confirm, beverages with sugar can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. America's beverage companies are doing their part to offer consumers the fact-based information and the wide variety of beverage options with and without sugar they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.