Drinking soda, sports drinks, or other sugary beverages increases a person’s risk of a premature death, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published this week in the medical journal Circulation, researchers indicate that consuming a sugary drink every day greatly increases the risk of death from heart problems and cancer.
Harvard researchers evaluated data on nearly 40,000 men from 1986 to 2014 in the Health Professional’s Follow-up study, and more than 80,000 women from 1980 to 2014 in the Nurses’ Health study. Participants were free of chronic diseases at the beginning of the study.
Among study participants, there were more than 36,000 deaths, including 7,900 cardiovascular disease related deaths and 12,000 cancer deaths.
The findings indicate people who consumed sugary drinks, such as soda, sports drinks, and other sugar sweetened beverages, had an increased risk of premature death. The primary causes of death was cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular events, as well as cancer, including colon and breast cancer.
Overall, regularly drinking sugary beverages increased the risk of early death from any cause by 28%. Risk of death from cardiovascular disease-related problems increased by 31% among those who drank two or more sodas per day. One serving is the equivalent of 12 ounces of soda.
The risk of death from cancer was increased by 18% for those who drank two or more sugary drinks per day.
Women in particular faced an increased risk of early death compared to men. Women who had two or more sugary drinks per day had a 63% increased risk of early death compared to women who had less than one soda per month.
Men who had two or more sodas per day had a 29% increased risk. Researchers noted there was a dose dependent effect.
People who had less than two sodas or sugary drinks per day, but more than one per month had an increased risk, but the risk was less than those who drank more. For each additional sugary drink consumed the risk increased by 10%.
Artificially sweetened beverages also carried a risk of early death, but not from cancer related problems.
Women who had four or more artificially sweetened beverages per day, sweetened with products like Equal, Splenda, or Sweet’n Low, had an increased risk of early death from cardiovascular risks. The same risk was not seen among men.
Study authors adjusted for lifestyle factors including dietary habits, physical activity, demographics, and family health history.
Researchers said the findings don’t prove cause and effect. Instead, the study indicates there is a link between the two.
Study findings indicate that it is important for people to try to cut back on sugar sweetened drinks to reduce their risk, according to the authors.
Consuming excess sugar can increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. These chronic health conditions put them at risk for other conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, which in turn increases their risk of suffering an early death.
Sugary drinks, like soda, are the single largest source of sugar in the average person’s diet. One serving of soda can have 13 teaspoons of sugar, which is nearly 60 grams of sugar in one beverage. With regular consumption, that can lead to drinking the equivalent of 50 lbs. of sugar per year.