Verdict is still out on whether soft drinks can really be the death of you

Researchers found that people who drank more than two glasses of artificially sweetened drinks were at a higher risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.

Myupchar September 13, 2019 13:43:29 IST
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Verdict is still out on whether soft drinks can really be the death of you
  • People who drink two or more soft drinks a day run the risk of dying sooner than they would have otherwise, according to a study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

  • Researchers found that people who drank more than two glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks were at a higher risk of death from cardiovascular diseases

  • Experts say that apart from sweetening the food, sugar does not have any nutritional value - itÃ�¢ï¿½ï¿½s just empty calories

People who drink two or more soft drinks a day run the risk of dying sooner than they would have otherwise, according to a study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization.

The study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Internal Medicine tracked more than 450,000 people from 10 different European countries for over a period of 16 years to assess the effects of soft drink on health.

Verdict is still out on whether soft drinks can really be the death of you

Representational image.
Image by Ernesto Rodriguez from Pixabay

At the end of the IARC study, researchers found that people who drank more than two glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks were at a higher risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, while those who drank more than two glasses of sugar-sweetened soft drinks were more likely to die from digestive diseases than people who drank less than one glass of either per month.

Of course, the study supports the popular belief that too many sweetened drinks are bad for us. However, an argument can be made that people who drink more soft drinks and sweet beverages also tend to have an unhealthier lifestyle and poorer diet.

Dr J. David Spence of the Robarts Research Institute, Canada, wrote in one of the reviews of the study: “Observational studies of this kind are fraught with hazards of reverse causality and confounders (both measured and unmeasured); they need to be taken with a grain of salt. In this study, people who drank more sweetened soft drinks weighed more, were less educated and smoked more. Aren't obese people more likely to consume sweetened beverages of both kinds? Can adjustment for known confounders really compensate for such differences? Does this study simply mean that obesity is a risk factor?”

In search of truth

Though most soft drinks contain over 90% water, they contain anywhere between 1% to 12% sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose. Experts say that apart from sweetening the food, sugar does not have any nutritional value - it’s just empty calories.

Excess consumption of sugar has long been associated with health conditions like diabetes, premature ageing and heart diseases.

Several studies in the past have pointed out the side effects of soft drinks and sweetened beverages, which include but are not limited to deterioration of heart health, gut health and the health of the nervous system.

Earlier this year, the British Medical Journal, one of the oldest medical journals in the world, published an article on how sweetened or sugary drinks, including sweetened fruit juices, increase the risk of cancer. However, the study pointed out, that along with sugars, 4-methylimidazole — an additive that is used to give the caramel colouring to sodas and pesticides, and which might be present in fruit juices — may be responsible for promoting cancerous growths.

To drink or not to drink

While sweetened beverages can provide instant energy, they have no nutritional value. According to the National Health Service (NHS), added sugars should not exceed 5% of your total energy intake in a day. This accounts for less than 30g per day - a maximum of six teaspoons (packaged lemonade can contain six to eight spoons of sugar).

It's a good idea to check the label every time you buy a sweetened drink or soda and keep tabs on your sugar intake. Also, since some of the studies named other possibly harmful substances in soft drinks, it is best to take them in moderation or not at all.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more articles like this, please see Health Effects of Beverages Like Wine and Green Tea.

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