Most of us don’t pay too much attention to the drinks we consume. After all, liquid doesn’t affect us the same way as food, right? It can’t affect your health or your weight the same way as a big meal, can it? Well, in recent health news, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health think we should be more careful about the beverages we choose to drink.
According to a research team at the famed institution, drinking sugary drinks can up the risk not only for diabetes (learn more about that topic by reading A Clear Link Between Soda and Diabetes), but heart disease as well.
The researchers conducted a study that involved 42,883 men. They looked for a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened (e.g. sodas) and artificially sweetened (e.g. diet sodas) beverage intake with fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease.
There were 3,683 heart disease cases over 22 years of follow-up in this large study. Participants in the top percentage of sugar-sweetened beverage intake had a 20% higher relative risk of heart disease than those in the bottom intake. These statistics remained true even after adjusting for age, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, multivitamins, family history, diet quality, energy intake, body mass index, pre-enrollment weight change, and dieting.
As for artificially sweetened beverage consumption, it wasn’t significantly associated with heart disease. The researchers concluded that intake of sugar-sweetened (but not artificially sweetened beverages) was significantly associated with:
— Increased triglycerides: Triglycerides are the major form of fat stored by your body. Elevated triglyceride levels are considered to be a risk factor for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and coronary heart disease. This is because part of the job triglycerides do is helping transport cholesterol.
— Increased C-reactive protein (CRP): When you have atherosclerosis, the number of plaques in your arteries is directly related to the amount by which your CRP levels are elevated. Basically, the levels of CRP in your body will rise in response to any type of inflammation, including the type that leads to heart disease.
— Decreased HDL (the “good” cholesterol).
— Increased leptin: Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. It helps to regulate your body fat by interacting with the areas in your brain that control hunger. Elevated levels of leptin are also associated with inflammatory diseases.
Follow the health advice of this study and limit your intake of sugary sodas and other drinks. Many supposed fruit drinks are also loaded with fructose and other sugars. Opt for pure fruit juices instead when you really feel the need to drink something other than water.