Soda, sports drinks tied to higher risk of early death

Drinking Sugary Beverages Linked with Early Death

Compared with women who had sugary beverages less than once per month, those who had more than two servings a day - defined as a standard glass, bottle or can - had a 63% increased risk of premature death, according to a study published Monday in the journal Circulation.

"Our results provide further support to limit intake of SSBs and to replace them with other beverages, preferably water, to improve overall health and longevity", study lead author Vasanti Malik, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, said in a statement.

They found that carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks are the single largest source of added sugar in the USA diet. But it's likely that both the added sugars and calories in these beverages play a role, Malik said.

There may be other factors that explain the link - for example, those who consume a lot of sugary drinks might have less healthy diets overall.

Soda and other sugary beverages aren't exactly known for being healthy.

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And the increased risk of cancer seen with sugary drinks is "likely driven by diet-related cancers, including breast cancer and, to a lesser extent, colon cancer", Malik said. Each additional soda, sports drink, or sugary beverage increased the risk by 10 percent.

The researchers also examined the effects of artificially sweetened beverages, considered by many to be a safer alternative to sugary drinks. The study probed that question too: it found that substituting one sugary drink per day with one artificially sweetened drink was linked to a slightly slower risk of death, but that very high levels of artificially sweetened drinks aren't good for you either. However, drinking four or more artificially sweetened drinks a day was associated with a higher risk of death among women.

A research team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health pored over about 25 years of health data collected from two ongoing studies - the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses' Health Study - which together include more than 117,000 USA adults. The association weakened but remained true when researchers adjusted for lifestyle factors including dietary factors and physical activity, demographics and family history of Type 2 diabetes.

During 34 years of follow-up in the nurses' study, 23,432 women died, including 4,139 who died of heart problems and 8,318 from cancer.

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