Think Twice About That Soda
Our family practice doctors in Delray Beach hate to offer negative data on sodas just as summer is getting underway, but some new research has been added to previous studies that implicate soda in a host of medical problems, including early death. Therefore, we thought we’d give you the latest available information so you can make up your mind about whether to continue quaffing that bubbly treat.
Evidence piling up
You may have thought that sodas, while not the healthiest beverage choice available, are a fairly benign way to quench your thirst. Unfortunately, more and more studies are revealing that both regular and diet sodas can have a serious impact on your health.
Consider, for example, a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. Researchers found that subjects who drank two or more glasses of soft drinks per day had a higher risk of dying than those who consumed less than a glass per month (one glass equals eight ounces—a typical can of soda contains 12 ounces).
This study followed 451,743 individuals from 10 European countries from 1992 to 2000, excluding those who already had cancer, heart disease, stroke or diabetes when the study began. It found that a high-level of consumption (defined as two or more glasses per day) was associated with an elevated risk of death from all causes.
“Positive associations were observed between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and digestive disease deaths,” wrote the authors, “as well as between artificially sweetened soft drinks and circulatory disease deaths.”
Digestive disease deaths included diseases of the pancreas, intestines, liver, and appendix. A high consumption of soft drinks was also associated with an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease.
Other studies, similar results
One study, of course, is not definitive. But there have been others that showed similar negative effects of soda, both sweetened and diet.
A 2018 study published in the journal Circulation found that women who drank more than two servings a day (a standard glass, bottle, or can) of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 63 percent increased risk of premature death over those who drank them less than once a month. Men showed a 29 percent increase of dying early.
And a 2019 study published in the British medical journal BMJ showed that drinking just one small glass of a sugary drink daily led to an 18 percent higher risk of any type of cancer and a 22 percent risk of breast cancer.
It’s not just regular sodas, either. One study published last year in the journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), Stroke, appeared to show an increased risk of stroke in older women who consume as few as two diet sodas per day.
Researchers tracked the diet soda consumption of over 80,000 post-menopausal women for 12 years. Those subjects who reported drinking two or more diet sodas a day had a 23 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those who drank the beverages less than once a week. African-American women and subjects who were obese showed an even greater increase in risk.
A 2017 study, also published in Stroke, found that artificially sweetened drinks were not only tied to increased risk of stroke, but also of dementia. This study, an offshoot of the long-term Framingham Heart Study, analyzed the results of diet soda consumption on more than 4,300 adults over a period of 10 years. It found that those who drank a single diet soda per day were three times more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke (the kind caused by blocked blood vessels), as well as three times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, as those who never consumed diet sodas.
The latest finding
Research published in JAMA earlier this year also analyzed data from the Framingham study. Researchers from Tufts and Boston universities examined the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (sodas, sports drinks, and pre-sweetened tea) by more than 6,000 participants. They found that those who had more than one serving of such drinks daily over four years had an increased risk of heart disease based on cholesterol and triglyceride levels in their blood.
Even those who consumed such drinks just three to four times a week saw elevated levels of triglycerides and depressed levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol compared with those who drank these beverages less than once a month.
“This study gives us pause to consider what we are putting in our glasses daily, especially as we age,” study author Nicola McKeown, told Consumer Reports. McKeown is a nutritional epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.
So as we said, the choice is yours when selecting a beverage, but for your overall health, we recommend you opt for water, coffee, or tea in place of manufactured sodas.