FLASH: New research associates sugar-sweetened beverages with early mortality; artificially-sweetened beverages are not much safer.
Scientists have found even more evidence it’s time to stop the soda, put down the lemonade, and eliminate sugary-sweet coffee in your diet. These sweet drinks taste good, but they may also set drinkers up for early death.
A 34 year-long study of more than 118,000 men and women across the US released Monday in the journal Circulation suggests that people who drink more sugar-sweetened beverages are more likely to die from all sorts of reasons, and especially from heart problems and cancers.
Diet soda and sugar substitutes may not be much better when consumed in large amounts.
Scientists have long known these drinks can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, but this latest evidence is the most damning so far that sugary drinks can be deadly.
The news about cancer deaths was especially surprising to lead study author Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“It makes sense,” she said. “When we looked at the different types of cancers, that association was driven by breast and colon cancer, which are diet/obesity-related cancers.”
Ms. Malik’s study also suggests that people who are trying to cut back on sugary drinks would do well to switch to diet options, at least temporarily.
“Diet soda may be used to help frequent consumers of sugary drinks cut back their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice,” she said in the press release.
The authors of this study found that drinking 4 or more artificially-sweetened beverages a day also upped women’s odds of dying. They could not say the same for men, but the researchers think the link between diet drinks and deadly outcomes may be because people who are already overweight drink more of those sugar-free options.
“Women with higher diet beverage consumption tended to be heavier and have hypertension (high blood pressure),” Ms. Malik said.
Drink Sugared drinks and do not exercise may be a death sentence.
This is unwelcome news because people who drink more sugar-sweetened beverages are also more likely to be less physically active, which means they are subject to a kind of 2X health threat.
Following participants in 2 long-term studies for 34 years, researchers noticed that people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to die early, and the more sugar, the higher the risk of death.
Compared to people who had just 1 sugary beverage a month, women who drank more than 24 oz of sugared beverages every day had a 63% higher risk of death, and men upped their risk 29%.
Because this study was observational, and scientists didn’t require people to sit around in a lab for decades while they collected data, we cannot be sure that there’s a causal link between early death and sugary drinks.
It could be that people who drink more sugar die young because of all the other things they are doing that are bad for their health, like consuming more calories, eating processed foods instead of Real foods. But even when the researchers in this study controlled for factors like diet, physical activity, body mass index, and age, they still found that people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to die early.
The Good News
Cutting back even a little bit on sugar can help. Instead of adding sugar to your coffee or drinking a soda, try drinking coffee with real cream and cinnamon or sprucing up a seltzer with a little lemon.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively