One soft drink a day raises 'heart attack danger' by 20 per cent according to U.S study
Created on Monday, 12 March 2012 20:00
By Fiona Macrae
Drinkng one sugar-laden soft drink every day could dramatically increase the odds of having a heart attack.
A study of more than 40,000 men suggested that a daily sugar-sweetened drink raised the chances of having a heart attack – including a deadly one – by 20 per cent.
In contrast, diet varieties that use artificial sweeteners were given a clean bill of health by the study’s authors.
Researcher Lawrence de Koning said the body may compensate for the sugar rush of soft drinks by making its own supply of fats, and some of these will be bad for the heart.
Tests on blood samples showed those who drank the sugary beverages tended to have higher levels of dangerous blood fats and of proteins linked to heart disease. Levels of ‘good’ cholesterol were lower, the journal Circulation reported.
The study also found that the more sugary drinks someone had, including still fruit squashes to which sugar is added during manufacturing, the more the risk rose.
Importantly, the link stood when other factors such as smoking, weight, alcohol and exercise were taken into account.
The U.S. research team made their link after analysing information provided by men who were asked every two years between 1986 and 2008 to provide detailed information about their diet.
Tallying the information showed that compared to never drinking sugary soft drinks, having 350ml a day – a standard can contains 330ml – raised the risk of a heart attack by 20 per cent.
Previous research has linked sugary drinks with diabetes and weight gain.
Dr de Koning, of Harvard University, said that although his study did not link diet soft drinks with heart problems, ‘better choices’ are available.
He said: ‘Water, coffee and tea are probably the best choices, after that would be low-fat milk. It is not clear whether fruit juice is a good replacement. There is a lot of sugar in it but it does have added benefits such as vitamins and fibre.’
Tea and coffee should be taken without sugar, he added.
Frank Hu, the study’s lead author and a professor of nutrition, said: ‘This study adds to the growing evidence that sugary beverages are detrimental to cardiovascular health.
‘Certainly, it provides strong justification for reducing sugary beverage consumption among patients and, more importantly, in the general population.’
The results of the study were firmly rejected by the British Soft Drinks Association.
A spokesman said: ‘Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study nor any other study in the available science.
‘The authors found an association between consuming sweetened beverages and cardiovascular risk, but this could have been the result of other lifestyle changes over the 22-year study period.’
Separate U.S. research published last year linked diet soft drinks with bulging waistlines, even when drun in small quantities. The researchers said they were not a healthy alternative to sugar-laden versions and warned they may foster a sweet tooth, distort appetite and even damage brain cells involved in feelings of fullness.
Tracy Parker, from the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘While we need more research to understand how else sugary drinks may affect our heart health, the study reminds us that they shouldn’t be a daily part of our diet.
‘Go for healthier alternatives such as water, low-fat milk, or unsweetened juices, which are kinder to our waistlines as well as our heart.’