Both sugary and sugar-free soft drinks are linked to a higher risk of death, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, which involved nearly 452,000 people, effectively dashes hopes among some that consuming sugar-free or diet sodas might somehow be safer than sugary ones. It looked at both artificially-sweetened and sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption in people from 10 different countries across Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.) and their effects on mortality.

The study found people who drank two or more glasses of either artificially-sweetened or sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day have a higher risk of death compared to those that drank one glass or less per day.

What was most intriguing about this study is its finding that the causes of death differed between people that consumed sugar-sweetened soft drinks and those who consumed artificially-sweetened ones. People that drank sugar-sweetened sodas were more likely to have digestive-related deaths. These include diseases of the liver, pancreas, appendix and intestines.

On the other hand, people that consumed more artificially-sweetened drinks were more likely to die from circulatory diseases such as coronary artery disease. This heart disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, usually caused by atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is the build-up of cholesterol and fatty deposits (or plaques) on the inner walls of the arteries.

“For years people have been drinking artificially-sweetened drinks, thinking they aren’t going to have any consequences,” Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said.

“But there are a number of diseases people are at an increased risk for with these drinks. Regardless of whether you’re using artificial sweeteners or regular sugar, it appears that there are negative health consequences with either one.”

Weinandy emphasized that sugar isn't good for people when consumed in large amounts. The evidence to prove this is pretty clear cut, she said. Sugar increases inflammation in the body and that leads to a whole host of health conditions.

"But these sugar substitutes are not risk-free. More and more evidence appears to show that they also have a negative influence on our health,” she added.

Soft Drinks
Most Americans do not approve of government restrictions on the sale of candy and soda. Pixabay