Vitality

2 Sweet Drinks A Day Linked To Heart Disease Risk, Increases Danger Of Heart Failure By 25%

Sugary Drinks
Too many sweet drinks can put a man's heart in danger. Photo courtesy of Flickr, David Brown

Behind a bar, in vending machines, down grocery store aisles, and even in some school cafeterias, sweetened drinks seem to be within reach wherever you go. You may want to think twice before grabbing one, however. A new study published in the journal Heart may shock men with a sweet tooth for these drinks, as it found those who consumed at least two each day — sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener — were putting their hearts in danger.

For the study, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden closely measured the health and diets of 42, 400 men aged 45 to 79. Over a 12-year span, participants were asked to track what they ate and drank on a daily and weekly basis, including the number of sweetened beverages at about 7 ounces a glass.

During the experiment, 3,604 people developed heart failure and 509 of them eventually died from it. It didn’t matter if the drink was sweetened with sugar, fructose, glucose, or artificial sweeteners — if a participant drank at least two servings a day they increased their risk of heart failure by 25 percent.

Heart failure affects more than 23 million people worldwide and nearly six million Americans. Contrary to popular belief, heart failure doesn’t mean the heart stops beating. Rather, it stops pumping blood as efficiently as it used to, according to the American Heart Association, which results in a shortage of oxygen rich blood delivered throughout the body. The condition worsens over time if left untreated.

Heart failure is the most common reason people 65 and older wind up in the hospital. But current recommendations for preventing heart failure only include incorporating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. There are no recommendations for sugar or artificial sweetener intake, which makes these findings all the more important for older adults’ health strategies.

Researchers are still trying to piece together what exactly goes wrong in the body when it’s fed sugar and artificial sweeteners. And this study isn’t the first to implicate sweet drinks as a danger to public health. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health found only one or two sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, fruit juice, energy drinks, or sports drinks, could increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack by 35 percent, developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent, and stroke by 16 percent.

"The well-known association of sweetened beverages with obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are risk factors for heart failure, reinforces the biological plausibility of findings,” the researchers wrote. "Based on their results, the best message for a preventive strategy would be to recommend an occasional consumption of sweetened beverages or to avoid them altogether."

Source: Larsson SC, Rahman I, and Wolk A. The relationship between sweetened beverage consumption and risk of heart failure in men. Heart. 2015.

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