In the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers analyzed data on 84,628 women collected between 1980 and 2010 and also found that those who opted for sugary drinks on a regular basis experienced a 16 percent increase in stroke risk and up to a 26 percent increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The reason? The added sugar in sodas, juices and energy drinks that piles on extra pounds, according to Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Part of the problem is how fructose behaves in the body,” said Hu. Fructose is metabolized in the liver where it’s turned into triglycerides that can cause insulin resistance, one of the biggest risk factors in cardiovascular disease and diabetes. “Since we rarely consume fructose in isolation, the major source of fructose in the diet comes from fructose-containing sugars, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, in sugar-sweetened beverages.”
The idea that sweetened drinks can lead to weight gain and disease isn’t exactly new, but this study put concrete numbers on how much risk is involved with taking in excess calories through sweetened drinks.
Switching to diet versions of these drinks can help in the short term, says Hu, but little is really understood about their long-term health effects. Ultimately, the researchers conclude that it’s best to listen to your mom’s advice and just drink water.
“Although reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or added sugar alone is unlikely to solve the obesity epidemic entirely, limiting intake is one simple change that will have a measurable impact on weight control and prevention of cardio-metabolic diseases,” he wrote.