Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, March 22, 2012

First meat, now soft drinks

This time, Frank Hu and his colleagues from Harvard followed over 40,000 men for twenty years to see how drinking sugary drinks would affect their hearts. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the news was not good.

The men were sent a questionnaire every four years asking them how many sugar-sweetened beverages they typically consumed.  Drinks included colas and other soft drinks as well as fruit drinks like lemonade and fruit punch. A subset of the men also provided blood samples. Living participants were asked to provide information as to whether they’d ever had any cardiovascular disease, and the records of diseased individuals were checked for cardiac events.

As with the red meat study, the more sugary drinks a person consumed the more likely he was to smoke, eat poorly and not exercise. That said, there was a clear association between sugared beverages and heart attacks.  Adding one serving per day increased a man’s risk of having a heart attack by about 20%. I’m not sure you could get a result like that if you injected lard directly into your veins.

Although this study only looked at men, a similar study of women also showed a huge increase in risk (15%). One possibility is that the increased sugar caused a compensatory increase in inflammatory factors, which in turn leads to more cardiovascular disease. Higher consumption of sugary drinks was in fact associated with increases in inflammatory blood factors.

Whatever the mechanism, it seems clear that sugared drinks are not good for you.  Sorry to be a downer.  I suggest you take another look at yesterday’s baby tortoise until you feel better.    

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