If you were told to change your diet to help protect your heart, how would you do it? Cut down on sodium to lower your blood pressure? Decrease the amount of fattier meats you eat to reduce cholesterol and unhealthy saturated fats? Eat more plant-based foods to increase antioxidants and heart healthy fiber? Any one of those are good options. (All of them collectively? Even better!) But would you have thought about eliminating sodas and other sugary drinks?
That may not have even made your top 10, as most people would think about those in relation to diabetes and lowering blood sugars. However, there may be some cardiovascular benefit to kicking the sweetened drink habit. In a recent issue of Circulation,researchers found that those who regularly consumed these types of beverages had a greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t!
Sports drinks, sweet tea, energy drinks, soda, coffee drinks… all of these combine to produce the biggest source of added sugar in the average American diet. For many, that may translate into an excess of calories, leading to weight gain that increases cardiovascular risk. It can also be a major contributing factor in developing diabetes, which carries the same risks.
Ironically, the study tracked the consumption habits of nearly 108,000 healthcare professionals from the 1980s until 2014, with 32% being men and 68% women. They also took into account other factors such as smoking, drinking and exercise, which didn’t affect the risk level whether the sugary drink consumption was high or low. During that time, 7,900 of the subjects died of heart disease or stroke, and the following trends were seen from the data:
- The more sweetened beverages a person drank, the greater was their risk of dying from heart disease
- Sugary drinks were associated with a moderately higher risk of dying from breast cancer or colon cancer
- The researchers found that for every additional sugary drink beyond 1 a person consumed (on a 2000 calorie diet), their risk of dying from heart disease increased by 10%.
Additionally, there was evidence that women who drank several artificially sweetened beverages (four or more per day) had an increased risk of dying (from any cause) during the study period. Now if only this were a direct cause-and-effect study, it would probably be a lot easier to get people off of these health-robbing drinks! Most of them provide absolutely no nutritional benefit whatsoever and can actually cause damage to the body. Whether it is the caffeine overstressing the adrenals, or the sugar elevating blood glucose, or the carbonation and acidity damaging the stomach and bones, they are better left on the store shelves and out of your body.
It was also noted that people who regularly consumed sugary drinks had the tendency to eat more red meat and sugar and less fruits and vegetables. They also got less exercise, weighed more and were more likely to smoke, versus people who rarely drank them. Not surprisingly, these are all factors that can make cardiovascular disease risk higher, as well as for a whole host of other health problems. So, don’t let sodas and sugary drinks lead the way on your path to a possible stroke or heart attack. Kick the habit, drink more water, and stack the odds in your favor for a longer, healthier life!