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Sep 29, 2019

Diet Soda and Sugary Drinks May Affect Lifespan, Study Finds

Two or more sodas a day shown to increase risk of death in nearly half a million Europeans.

Drinking soda may be taking years off your life, based on a recent study that found consuming two or more soft drinks a day is associated with increased risk of death. The study also links sugary drinks to digestive diseases and diet drinks to increased risk for heart disease—the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study explored soft drink consumption and its impact on mortality risk. It included more than 451,000 healthy Europeans in the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), which looks at the impact of diet on risk for cancer and chronic diseases.

According to authors, recent studies have linked both diet and regular soft drinks to increased risk of death. However, few studies have been conducted in such a large, diverse population across Europe.

In total, the recent study included 451,743 adults with an average age of 51. Participants came from ten different countries including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. After reporting dietary habits at the start of the study, participants were followed for an average of 16 years, tracking outcomes like heart disease, cancer and death.

Over the course of the study, there were 41,693 deaths among study participants. Researchers found that those drinking two or more soft drinks a day had 17% greater risk of death than those who consumed less than one soft drink a month.

When comparing diet and regular soft drinks, researchers found that artificially-sweetened beverages increased risk of death by 26%, while sugar-sweetened drinks increased risk of death by 8%.

Researchers also found that two or more diet drinks a day was linked to 52% greater risk of circulatory diseases such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Daily consumption of sugary drinks, on the other hand, increased risk for digestive diseases by 59%.

In this study, diet drinks included any type of artificially sweetened beverage, while sugary drinks included soft drinks like soda, lemonade and fruit drinks.

According to authors, findings confirm the negative effects of both diet and sugary drinks on our health and suggest that limiting consumption of soft drinks may promote a longer life.

However, it’s important to note that this study was not a clinical trial and cannot prove cause and effect. Dietary habits were also self-reported, which can prove unreliable and change over time. Still, findings add to a growing body of evidence about the negative health effects of diet and sugary drinks.

Authors encourage future research on the issue, as well as public health efforts to reduce consumption of soft drinks to promote better health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

  • How can I cut out excess sugar in my diet?

  • Many studies (including earlier NHANES reports) show that sugary soft drinks contribute more calories to the U.S. diet than any other single food or beverage. One 12-oz can of soda contains about 40 to 50 grams of sugar, depending on the type of soda. That’s equivalent to 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Guzzle a 32-oz jumbo drink from a fast-food restaurant or convenience store, and you’ll take in 23 teaspoons of sugar. But sodas aren’t the only problem. Lots of hidden sugars find their way into processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

Featured Video

The average American today consumes three pounds of sugar a week. In the 1800s, the average American consumed two pounds of sugar a year!


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Infographic: Sugars and Sweeteners