Soda Tied to Higher Risk of Early Death

Serena Gordon wrote . . . . . . . . .

Whether you call it soda, pop or a soft drink, a new study’s findings suggest it would be better for your health to drink water instead.

The large European study found that people who have more than two sodas a day — with or without sugar — had a higher risk of dying over about 16 years than people who sipped the fizzy beverages less than once a month.

“We found that higher soft drink intake was associated with a greater risk of death from any cause regardless of whether sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks were consumed,” said study senior author Neil Murphy. He’s a scientist with the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

“Our results for sugar-sweetened soft drinks provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with healthier beverages, preferably water,” Murphy said.

How might sodas raise your risk of dying?

Sugar-sweetened beverages may lead to weight gain and obesity. They also may affect the way the hormone insulin is used in the body, which can lead to inflammation, Murphy noted. All of these things can lead to health conditions that may shorten life.

He said more research is needed to understand how artificially sweetened soda might increase the risk of early death.

While it found an association, the current study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between soda and a higher risk of early death. It’s possible that soda drinkers have other habits that could add to their odds, such as smoking or a less healthy diet.

This study isn’t the first to find a connection between soda and bad health outcomes. Two recent studies — one from BMJ and the other in Circulation — linked drinking soda to cancer and deaths from heart disease.

The current research included more than 451,000 people from 10 European countries. Their average age was 51. Researchers followed the participants’ health for an average of 16 years.

In addition to a higher risk of dying from all causes for those who drank more than two sodas a day, more sodas were also linked to some specific causes of death.

  • People who had more than one soda daily — sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened — compared to fewer than one a month had a higher risk of dying from colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
  • People who had more than one sugar-sweetened soda a day compared to fewer than one a month had a higher risk of dying from digestive diseases.
  • People who had more than artificially sweetened soda a day compared to less than one a month had a higher risk of dying from circulatory diseases like heart disease.

Murphy said researchers tried to account for factors such as body mass index (an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) and smoking, and still found an association between drinking more soda and a higher risk of dying.

Representatives of the beverage and sweetener industries urged people not to overreact to the findings.

Low-calorie and no-calorie sweeteners are “an important tool for weight management and those managing diabetes,” said Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council.

The council’s medical adviser, Dr. Keri Peterson, added: “The safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners has been reaffirmed time and time again by leading regulatory and governmental agencies around the world.”

William Dermody Jr., a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, offered a similar view. “Soft drinks are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet and the authors of this study acknowledge their research does not indicate otherwise.”

But Dr. Maria Anton, an endocrinologist at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital, said excess consumption of soft drinks and other high-sugar and artificially sweetened beverages has become the norm for many people.

“These can contribute to weight gain and poor blood sugar control, worsening existing conditions like diabetes,” she pointed out.

Anton added that the findings suggest sugar is probably not the only unhealthy ingredient in soft drinks. “Patients in this study who regularly consumed sugar-free, artificially sweetened drinks were also at an increased risk of death,” she pointed out.

Registered dietitian Samantha Heller, from NYU Langone Health in New York City, said many factors may contribute to the link between soda consumption and risk of death. The bottom line, she said, is that people don’t need to drink soda.

“The consumption of beverages that taste sweet is fueled by marketing and advertising. There really is no need to consume them,” Heller said, suggesting suggested water, seltzer or tea instead.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Study Suggests Possible Link between Sugary Drinks and Cancer

A study published by The BMJ reports a possible association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and and an increased risk of cancer.

While cautious interpretation is needed, the findings add to a growing body of evidence indicating that limiting sugary drink consumption, together with taxation and marketing restrictions, might contribute to a reduction in cancer cases.

The consumption of sugary drinks has increased worldwide during the last few decades and is convincingly associated with the risk of obesity, which in turn is recognised as a strong risk factor for many cancers. But research on sugary drinks and the risk of cancer is still limited.

So a team of researchers based in France set out to assess the associations between the consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices), artificially sweetened (diet) beverages, and risk of overall cancer, as well as breast, prostate, and bowel (colorectal) cancers.

Their findings are based on 101,257 healthy French adults (21% men; 79% women) with an average age of 42 years at inclusion time from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study.

Participants completed at least two 24-hour online validated dietary questionnaires, designed to measure usual intake of 3,300 different food and beverage items and were followed up for a maximum of 9 years (2009-2018).

Daily consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices) and artificially sweetened (diet) beverages were calculated and first cases of cancer reported by participants were validated by medical records and linked with health insurance national databases.

Several well known risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity levels, were taken into account.

Average daily consumption of sugary drinks was greater in men than in women (90.3 mL v 74.6 mL, respectively). During follow-up 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed and validated (693 breast cancers, 291 prostate cancers, and 166 colorectal cancers). Average age at cancer diagnosis was 59 years.

The results show that a 100 mL per day increase in the consumption of sugary drinks was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer and a 22% increased risk of breast cancer.

When the group of sugary drinks was split into fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer. No association was found for prostate and colorectal cancers, but numbers of cases were more limited for these cancer locations.

In contrast, the consumption of artificially sweetened (diet) beverages was not associated with a risk of cancer, but the authors warn that caution is needed in interpreting this finding owing to a relatively low consumption level in this sample.

Possible explanations for these results include the effect of the sugar contained in sugary drinks on visceral fat (stored around vital organs such as the liver and pancreas), blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers, all of which are linked to increased cancer risk.

Other chemical compounds, such as additives in some sodas might also play a role, they add.

This is an observational study, so can’t establish cause, and the authors say they cannot rule out some misclassification of beverages or guarantee detection of every new cancer case.

Nevertheless, the study sample was large and they were able to adjust for a wide range of potentially influential factors. What’s more, the results were largely unchanged after further testing, suggesting that the findings withstand scrutiny.

These results need replication in other large scale studies, say the authors.

“These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence,” they conclude.

Source: BMJ

Sugary Drinks and Fruit Juice May Increase Risk of Early Death

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Most folks know that sugary drinks aren’t healthy, but a new study finds fruit juices are not much better.

In fact, consuming them regularly may help shorten your life, researchers say.

“Older adults who drink more sugary beverages, which include fruit juice as well as sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, may be at risk of dying earlier,” said study author Jean Welsh. She is an associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“Efforts to decrease consumption of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages should also include fruit juices, and these efforts need to include adults as well as children,” Welsh said.

For the study, Welsh and her colleagues collected data on 13,440 men and women, average age 64, who were part of a large stroke study from 2003 to 2007. Among these participants, 71% were obese or overweight.

The participants were asked how many sugar-sweetened drinks they consumed. Over an average of six years, 1,168 of the participants died.

The researchers found that those who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages — including 100% fruit juice — had higher odds of dying during the study, compared with those who drank the least of these.

Moreover, each additional 12-ounce drink increased the risk even more.

The report was published online in JAMA Network Open.

In the United States, about half of the population consumes at least one sugar-sweetened drink per day, said Marta Guasch-Ferre, a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.

“Most people are aware that sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages — including soft drinks, fruit punch and energy drinks — are associated with weight gain and adverse health effects. But fruit juices are still widely perceived by many as a healthier option,” Guasch-Ferre said.

Evidence has shown that sugar-sweetened drinks are tied to an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity, she added. The evidence is less clear for fruit juice.

Whole juice contains some nutrients, and that may be beneficial for health, but they also contain relatively high amounts of sugar from natural sources, Guasch-Ferre explained.

Although fruit juices have been associated with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, whole fruits have not, she said.

Current recommendations suggest drinking no more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day, Guasch-Ferre said.

“Although fruit juices are not as harmful as sugar-sweetened beverages, consumption should be moderated in both children and adults, especially for individuals who attempt to control their body weight,” said Guasch-Ferre, who co-authored an accompanying journal editorial.

Fruit-based smoothies are commonly seen as healthier options. However, their ingredients can vary substantially and there is limited research on their health effects, she said. In addition, smoothies are usually very high in calories and so aren’t recommended as daily beverages. Vegetable juice is a lower-calorie alternative to fruit juice, but may contain a lot of salt.

“The current evidence suggests that water should be the preferred beverage, and the intake of other beverages such as tea or coffee, without sugar and creamers, should be chosen in place of sugar-sweetened drinks,” Guasch-Ferre advised.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Stay Away From Sugary Sodas, Spare Your Heart

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

People who regularly down sugar-laden sodas, juices and sports drinks aren’t doing their heart any favors.

A new study of more than 110,000 U.S. health professionals found that the more people drank sugary beverages, the higher their risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

People who consumed at least two per day were about one-third more likely to die of heart disease or stroke, versus those who rarely had sugar-sweetened drinks.

And it wasn’t just because that the latter group was more health-conscious. The risk remained when the researchers factored in overall diet and habits such as exercise, smoking and drinking.

While Americans eat plenty of junk food, there is reason to focus on sugary drinks in particular, according to Vasanti Malik, the lead researcher on the study.

“They’re the single biggest contributor of added sugar to Americans’ diets,” said Malik, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The new findings do not prove that sugary drinks, per se, raise the odds of dying from cardiovascular disease, Malik said.

But, she added, many studies have linked the beverages to ill health effects — including weight gain and heightened risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

“If you look at the overall literature, the association is strong,” Malik said. “This study is offering another piece of evidence that we should reduce our intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian not involved in the study, agreed.

“There’s no downside to cutting down on sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Petitpain, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In fact, she added, it’s a simple way to slash excess calories — easier than, say, eating a smaller dinner every night.

That doesn’t just mean cutting out soda, though. “We used to only talk about soda,” Petitpain said. “But added sugars are lurking in many other beverages, too — juices, sports drinks, coffee drinks.”

Ideally, people should replace those beverages with water, Petitpain said. “But if you really need that sweet taste,” she added, “there are low-calorie alternatives.”

In this study, published online March 18 in the journal Circulation, there was evidence that replacing one sugary drink each day with an artificially sweetened version could trim the risk of dying from heart disease.

On the other hand, women who drank a lot of artificially sweetened beverages — four or more per day — had an increased risk of dying (from any cause) during the study period.

Does that mean artificial sweeteners somehow contributed? Malik did not discount that possibility, but also said there’s no proof of that from this study. She offered an alternative explanation: “reverse causation.”

That is, women who were trying to lose weight or manage health problems may have switched to artificially sweetened drinks.

A group representing the low-calorie beverage industry stressed that point. “These products are proven safe and beneficial for those managing their weight and blood glucose [sugar] levels,” said Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council.

Alice Lichtenstein is a professor of nutrition science at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

She said it’s hard to interpret the finding on artificially sweetened drinks. But in general, Lichtenstein said, “the best advice we can give to people is to drink mainly water.”

And if you need more zip, she added, add a slice of orange or lime — or try an unsweetened flavored water.

The findings are based on over 37,700 male health professionals and 80,000-plus female nurses who were followed from the 1980s until 2014. During that time, nearly 7,900 died of heart disease or stroke.

People who regularly downed sugary drinks did tend to eat more red meat and sugar, and fewer fruits and vegetables. They also got less exercise, weighed more and were more likely to smoke, versus people who rarely had the drinks.

But even when Malik’s team accounted for those factors, the link between sugary drinks and cardiovascular deaths remained.

It’s important to cut added sugar from food, too. But liquid sugar can be particularly problematic, Petitpain said, because it’s not as filling as solid food — making it easier to load up on excess calories.

“You can easily drink a 200-calorie beverage, then turn around and say, ‘What’s for lunch?'” Petitpain said.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Is Fruit Juice Healthier Than Soda?

It’s great that you’re trying to cut back on soda, but fruit juice isn’t the best substitute. “While the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in fruit juice give it a nutritional edge over soda, it can have the same—or more—sugars and calories,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food-testing lab.

For example, a cup of grape juice has 36 grams of sugars—compared with 27 grams of sugars in a cup of grape soda. “The sugars are natural, but your body processes them in the same way as the added sugars in soda,” Siegel explains. Compared with eating the fruit itself, the sugars in juice are digested and released into your bloodstream faster, causing blood glucose levels to spike.

This triggers the body to pump out large amounts of insulin, which can prompt fat storage and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. In whole fruit, the sugars are encased inside the plant’s cells, so your body has to work harder to break them down. The fiber that fruit contains further slows digestion and, Siegel says, “will likely fill you up long before you eat enough fruit to consume the amount of sugars in a glass of juice.”

Another consideration: If you’re cutting down on soda because the carbonation bothers you, the acidic juices from citrus fruits can also irritate your stomach.

Your best bet is to trade soda for water into which you add either some fruit slices or just a splash of fruit juice for flavor.

Source: Consumer Reports