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A soda per day may raise heart-attack risk
March 12th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

A soda per day may raise heart-attack risk

It's no secret that the empty calories in soda and other sugary drinks can contribute to weight gain and obesity. But a new study suggests these beverages also may harm your heart, even if they don't cause you to gain weight.

The study, which followed nearly 43,000 men for an average of 22 years, found that those who habitually drank one 12-ounce sweetened beverage per day were 20% more likely to have a heart attack, fatal or otherwise, than men who drank none.

The association could not be explained by obesity or weight gain alone. The researchers took into account the men's body mass index, along with their dietary habits, exercise levels, family history of heart disease, and other extentuating factors.

Health.com: 10 heart attack risk factors

Sugary-beverage consumption "appears to be an independent risk factor for heart disease," says lead author Frank Hu, M.D., a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston.

Artificially sweetened diet drinks were not linked to heart attacks, as they have been in some other recent studies. And only daily or near-daily consumption of sugary drinks measurably increased heart-attack risk.

The study was published this week in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Health.com: The worst habits for your heart

Several factors besides body weight—or, more likely, a combination of factors—could explain the findings, Hu says. For instance, he says, sugary beverages have been linked to high triglycerides and low "good" cholesterol (HDL), which could increase heart-attack risk without being accompanied by obesity.

Sugary beverages also are believed to promote inflammation, an immune-system response involved in both heart disease and insulin resistance, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Finally, Hu says, sugary drinks have been associated with the accumulation of belly fat, which can increase a man's risk of heart attacks even if he isn't obese.

Blood samples taken from roughly 40% of the men during the study supported some of these hypotheses. Men who consumed sugary beverages at least once a day had higher triglyceride levels, lower HDL levels, and higher levels of a marker of inflammation known as C-reactive protein (CRP). They also had higher levels of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate metabolism.

Health.com: The cholesterol-inflammation connection

The study had some important limitations. Most notably, the researchers measured beverage consumption every four years using food questionnaires. Although this is a commonly used research method, it relies on the study participants' memory and is therefore less than exact.

In addition, the new research was part of an ongoing study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that includes only male health professionals, almost all of whom are white. That may limit the relevance of the findings to other groups.

However, the findings do closely resemble those of a similar study in women, known as the Nurses Health Study.

"We already know that sugary beverages are associated with increased obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic issues," Hu says. "This adds further evidence that sugary beverages are detrimental to our health."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Cholesterol • Health.com • Heart • Nutrition

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Ed - Spring, TX

    High fructose corn syrup – stay away from it. I could probably count the number of sodas I've had in the last 8 years on the fingers of one hand. Every time I had one it tasted so sweet it didn't have any flavor.

    March 12, 2012 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Roger

      I've heard a thousand times – don't drink soda, and they all end up discussing sugary beverages! Haven't these idiots ever heard of diet soda, NO sugar, No harmful dyes, etc.

      I'd REALLY like info on diet beverages!

      March 13, 2012 at 02:46 | Report abuse |
    • dee takemoto

      This for Roger and Ed...avoid the diet sodas with aspartame in them. Yes, you can read this yourself by googling PubMed and searching aspartame. It crosses the blood brain barrier and causes changes in your neurotransmitters. Other artifical sweeteners ind diet sodas cannot do this. From Dr. Dee

      March 14, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
  2. Buttercup

    I am so glad that I stopped drinking sodas back in 1993 and have not had one in 19 years. My nutritionist calls sodas "liquid candy". Since 1993, I have only drank coffee, green tea, fat-free milk, water and an occasional glass of red wine.

    March 12, 2012 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • C

      @Buttercup:
      Those all sound much tastier than soda anyway! Yum!

      March 12, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
    • vbscript2

      umm... the coffee is probably worse for you than soda.

      I'm curious if they have studied people who drink fruit juices regularly. Most of the fruit juices I've seen have more sugar per volume than Coca-Cola, even the ones that are 100% juice.

      March 12, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
    • Steven G

      vb: Studies on coffee are pretty mixed; there are pros and cons. I wouldn't advise anyone to start drinking it if they don't already, but compared to the huge sugar loads from soda, which are unambiguously bad, coffee would seem to be a lesser of the two evils.

      March 12, 2012 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
  3. eroteme

    This is very good, another practice that may increase our heart attack risk. But I believe I have already heard this one before alongside the countless other don-nots.

    March 12, 2012 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Portland tony

    Since the term sugary drink infers any liquid (water) with sugar added would fit this study. So sugar is the culprit. Wonder why one's body reacts negatively to a naturally growing plant. Practically every thing man eats contains sugar or something sweet. We are all doomed.

    March 12, 2012 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jane

      I wonder if they looked at the type of "sugar".

      March 12, 2012 at 21:43 | Report abuse |
    • Michael Hunt

      It's not just sugar which is the problem. It's fructose in the absence of fiber. Sucrose breaks down into glucose and fructose shortly after consumption, so sucrose vs high-fructose corn syrup is not an important distinction. The real problem is that when you consume either, you generally do so without the fiber your body needs to properly process it. When you eat fruits or vegetables, you do consume sugar, but you also consume a lot of fiber, which just isn't the case with soda or juice.

      March 12, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
    • JR

      Most brands of soda are loaded with GMO-based, high-fructose corn syrup – that is, highly processed sugars made from crops that have been genetically modified to produce toxins within the plant in order to act as a pesticide. But hey, even if the crop itself is poisonous enough to kill any bug foolish enough to have a taste, I'm sure by the time it gets into my Coke it's perfectly safe for human consumption.

      March 12, 2012 at 22:59 | Report abuse |
    • Ed - Spring, TX

      It's probably the high fructose corn syrup in sodas that's bad. It's probably not the sugar but the huge concentration of sugar in a soft drink. Even if you drink fruit juice, the amount of sugar is bad. Drinking a glass of orange juice is like eating dozen oranges. Moderation is the key to life. And, throw away the stupid sodas.

      March 13, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
    • Abby

      Just because something is natural doesn't mean it is healthy or safe. Cyanide is "natural", cocaine is "natural".

      Our bodies were never meant to handle the amount of sugar we put into them, especially not industrialized processed sugars like HFCS.

      And plenty of people don't eat sugar in nearly everything they eat.

      March 13, 2012 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  5. Bobby M.

    Water is always the best option.

    March 12, 2012 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. DeeGreen

    Really?!? Hey if you want a soda and you have a free will then by all means have a soda. If you don't have a free will then by all means be miserable.

    March 12, 2012 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ted

    I very rarely have soda now, preferring water when I go out to a restaurant or drive thru. Always too sweet and a horrible after taste. There is a VP at my office who drinks 8-10 cans of coke a day. He is definitely addicted as he starts off the day with one, just like a smoker and a cigarette.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ser

      i had a boss like that too a while back..she was a skinny thing and all i ever saw her drink (or eat for that matter) was diet cokes and DanActives.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
  8. Dave S.

    A leading study showed that the leading cause of Death... is being born.

    Once you've been born, just about everything we do these days is bad for our long term health it seems.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ash

    Don't drink juice either. It's no less evil than a soda. I find it appalling that juice manufacturers advertise their product as better and convenient than a fruit. This clearly sends a very wrong message to children and teens.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Youni

    Why do seemingly healthy people drink this much sugary fluid? Taste and marketing may explain brand choice but not the why? I tend to drink mostly at work to help keep up the pace during the day.. Whether it's the sugar or the caffeine I don't know, but I think ithelps keep me going. Why do I need it? The CDC says that 20-30% of US adults feel tired most every day. That fits me as well. How about you?

    March 12, 2012 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sandy

    Is it the soda or is it the high fructose corn syrup? No one wants to test the high fructose corn syrup directly because it is in so many products and sales contribute so much cash, but it would be useful to know if there is something specific to soda that causes the problem. What about diet soda?

    March 13, 2012 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dee takemoto

      All good questions Sandy. They have done animals studies and some on humans for short times (no one wants to do a long time and get fat so those are hard to get volunteers for). Sodas with sugar do not cause the problems, drinking too many, of course will just make you gain weight if you consume too many calories (not a surprise). The problem with diet drinks is the aspartame. It is the only artificial sweetener that crosses the blood brain barrier and it does mess with your neurotransmitters. Avoid that one. From Dr. Dee

      March 14, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  12. Daniel Richard Minnich D.R.M.

    I think that drinking more h2o warter is much beter and the way to go than drinking others. For God gave his vaery bast and much of it too!.. SOoo be hellthy and drink right knowe God!!.. Amen .

    March 13, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sam

    Alcohol in any amount will kill you and OTHER PEOPLE TOO

    March 13, 2012 at 03:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LauraOH

      So you didn't see the study that showed that the highest risk for premature death was among abstainers from alcohol? Moderate drinking, if you can do "moderate" is the healthiest, and, interestingly, the heaviest drinkers still had a lower risk of death from all causes over time than those who abstain from alcohol. The only reason I'll drink soda is if you mix it with bourbon, first.

      March 15, 2012 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
  14. Katie

    Coke's secret is to put as much sugar into it as chemically possible – any more sugar and it would solidify into candy. But this study has so many variables left out it's almost useless. Are they talking about soda or all drinks? Did they really only study a handful of white males? What did all these men do for a living and what other factors did the men have for being at risk for heart attacks? How long was the study? It's irresponsible to present an article that is so incomplete.

    March 13, 2012 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Brian

    We all die some day. I'll enjoy my Coke and see you all on the other side.

    March 13, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Colleen

      I'm with you, Brian!

      March 13, 2012 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
  16. Travis08

    Wait a minute. I thought it was all that bad fat, like ribeye steaks, movie theater popcorn made in coconut oil, french fries made in beef tallow, lard for frying chicken, and of course BACON along with other and delicious animal and natural saturated fats that caused damage to the heart. I mean, a nice refreshing cola is fat free. Now that's killing me. Break out the bacon, honey, cause we're going to party like it's 12/20/2012.

    March 13, 2012 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dori

      Finally a poster with some common sense and a sense of humor at that. The sheeple sure do get whipped into a frenzy and panic. There are bigger worries threatening them for what they put in the pie hole.

      March 13, 2012 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
    • Richmond Harrell

      Eat for energy.If one has to drink any beverage,pop any pill,or consume anything other than food to give their body the energy that is required for them to make it through the day then I believe a change of diet is required.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
  17. Tara

    When you cut out sugary beverages you are left with water, diet drinks, coffee, tea and milk. If you are lactose intolerant and want to avoid caffeine you are left with water, diet drinks and herbal tea. if you read the stories about diet soda and artificial sweeteners, you are left with just water and herbal tea. One of the reasons that folks drink "sugary drinks" is that there aren't any drinks other than those listed that aren't sugary or bad for you in another way. These stories about "sugary drinks and soda" make it seem like folks are choosing these over an array of other more healthy choices. Although the evidence suggests that sugary drinks are indeed bad for you, it is a bit bleak to think that you can only drink water and herbal tea for the rest of your life. Note: juice counts as a "sugary beverage".

    March 13, 2012 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • someone

      Also to add to your point tea actually contains a decent amount of caffeine. Not as much as coffee but it does have a decent bit. And why is water so bad? I drink a atleast a gallon a day. Water is the source of all life, why not have as much of it as you can. And if you find some natural orange juice with no sugar added, that is pretty good for you. The natural sugars found in real fruit and fruit juices are not bad fo you. Most people see the word sugar and associate it with the sugar in coke, when it actually is different than that kind of sugar. Now juice boxes, Hi-C, and the like are terrible for you. You are pretty much drinking flavored sugar. Also beer and wine, in moderation, are good for you as well.

      March 13, 2012 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      You can drink juice! You can juice your own fruits and vegetables and even sweeten them more with honey or stevia and you can invent all the flavors in the world if you want. You can also make flavored soda water this way. Let's not forget that there are literally hundreds of herbal tea kinds, that taste very much like flavored drinks, either with all natural real ingredients, or even more when you include those with natural or artificial flavors. Also there are non dairy milks from nuts and seeds, (not only soy). The choices really are endless. But it doesn't appeal to the public because they're all too lazy to take 5 minutes to MAKE a drink, as opposed to just buying it.

      March 13, 2012 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • Ally

      I have a juicer at home and make natural fruit and vegetable juices a few times a week. No sweetener needed! I can't even buy fruit juice from the store anymore. Tastes like plastic.

      March 13, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • Mare0568

      Although I appreciate Kathy's response, it really is quite annoying. I am lactose intolerant. I hate and I do mean HATE warm drinks - teas, coffees, hot cocoa whatever. I'm also not a big soup person. I hate diet soda and it left a horrible after taste. I don't like coconut, pineapple, and several other fruits and am allergic to peanuts and other nuts as well. I tried switching to some of the other drinks mentioned and they contain Aspertame, and if you aren't familiar with Aspertame, everyone should educate themselves on it. It's even in most gum. I drink water - on occasion - but frankly I'm not a large fan of that either. So, no soda isn't the best thing for you and it does put on the weight and it is guilty of a lot of things, But at least I'm able to get my caffeine fix which is desperately needed with 4 children and gets me moving. I agree with several of the other poster's here. Until more flavorful drinks are on the market with less chemicals, etc., there are some of us who are just simply screwed in terms of alternative drinks. And soy? Really? Have you drank soy? Maybe it's just my taste buds but I'd rather eat my cereal dry than have to add most of these lactose free alternatives. Yuck.

      March 15, 2012 at 01:23 | Report abuse |
  18. Anbesaw

    To all those that worship the almighty "Soda'. it doesn't come any clearer than this. Soda = Obesity, heart risk.
    on the other hand natural drinks from pure rain water to organically harvested fruit juices and "Coffe and tea" aer the only liquid to be sipped by mankind and ocassionally wine and some drinks.

    March 13, 2012 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Colin Monty

    Funny Story About The Picture: I Know This Man. His Name is Ham Hong he works at the pork plant with me on occasion. Ham does not like soda but they saw him (THEY BEING MR. COCA COLA) and said he was perfect for this campagin. They told him he would be a star and that his picture would be everywhere so he did not need money. THey said he would be asain george clooney or asian jeremy lin I mean come on he was lied to!! Now he has no money, 12 kids, and a case of herpes THATS HOLLYWOOD FOR YA

    March 13, 2012 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Portland tony

    Last time I checked, Coke sold in Mexico and south America as well as in US supermarkets that specialize in Latin foods contain pure sugar...no fructose or other sweetner. I wonder why? That's where and why we buy our colas locally.

    March 13, 2012 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jim

      mex cola has cane sugar insead of fructose. not sure what you mean when you say "that is why i buy locally." the cane sugar cola is probably better for you and much better tasting.

      March 13, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • jim

      instead*

      March 13, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Purchase it at a local Hispanic market!

      March 13, 2012 at 16:36 | Report abuse |
    • dee takemoto

      You can check online for the ingredients of ...say a Polish vs US cancy bar and you will also find that the ingredients are different, usually less fat, no aritficial colors, and no high fructose corn syrup. This from Dr. Dee

      March 14, 2012 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  21. Stephanie

    Try drinking something healthier for one week, then go back to your soda...I'm betting you won't like the taste of soda anymore. For me, it tasted too sweet and gave me a headache. I drink zija now http://www.zijamoms.com

    March 13, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Hank S

    Only 20% additional risk? I don't think that is enough for me to give it up, specially when they could only account for factors they could think of. Even then, it is nearly impossible to prove causation through a statistic. It's possible that something like stress caused the 20% risk and it just happens that stressed people drink more soda.

    March 13, 2012 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JEN

    IF YOU WORRY ABOUT HEARTACHE, JUST VISIT ANY CASINO AND WATCH ALL THOSE SMOKERS AND FAT AS=. IF YOU WANT TO SEE MORE, VISIT THE CHURCHES

    March 13, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Carol Meerschaert, MBA, RD

    These “jump to conclusion” headlines don’t help people make good choices. One scientific study is like one piece in a 1,000-piece puzzle; you need hundreds to understand the whole picture. While large diet studies are a good first look at a population, they don’t tell you what factors cause an outcome. In this study, the men had higher levels of triglycerides and less good cholesterol, both which could lead to heart disease. From the literature I’ve read, the big picture is that the path to a healthy life and weight includes various foods/drinks and regular physical activity. When exercise is coupled with healthy eating, there is no need to eliminate soda or other foods/drinks from your diet. That why I tell my clients, including individuals and companies like Coke, that all foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle.

    – Carol Meerschaert, MBA, RD

    March 13, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rh

    So tired of "this may increase heart attack risk" or "that may increase cancer risk". These are all "after the fact" studies with NO isolation of cause and effect, and no consideration for complicating factors.

    Why not say "men who have a history of drinking more than one soda per day have a higher incidence of heart attack"? That is different from "one soda per day increases heart attack risk".

    March 13, 2012 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dee takemoto

      Yes, I agree it is confusing to get only the byline. It is also too encompassing isn't it? Too many unanswered questions. Not all soadas do that and what do they mean by sugary? Too watered down and uselss for me too. Should say sodas with high fructose corn syrup tend to cause triglyceride biuld up and this contributes to heart problems, especially in women.

      March 14, 2012 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  26. Dori

    A soda a day MAY risk a heart attack which we're ignorantly ingesting listeria, E. coli, botulism and every manner of toxin, additives, preservatives, food coloring, hormones, artificial fertilizers, animal antibiotics, preservatives,........Spare me food nazis. I'm so sick of these sanctimonious a$$ holes sounding alarms. Moderation people and move on. Nothing to see here.

    March 13, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. sam

    ALcohol use will cause it quicker than any SODA...Ask the MUMMIES they MRI'ed

    March 14, 2012 at 04:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. HARRY

    Today, bottled water is more expensive then soda. Go figure!

    March 14, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. dee takemoto

    The authors state that sugary sodas are linked to heart problems. The work actually took several kinds of sodas and only the ones with high fructose corn syrup caused problems. Since it appears that this columnist is afraid to say it like it really is...let it be known that sodas with high fructose corn syrup have been shown to cause the problem. That is the sugary they are taling about. Yes, it is better to avoid all sodas as empty calories and to not cosume too many calories per day but, the most recent paper in Marchof 2012 (find it by googling PubMed) shows that the artificial process of making high fructose corn syrup causes the sugars to be degraded to things like 3-deoxyglucosone, a known agent which causes diabetes. I hope the writers of CNN health read over that publication (no I am not the author) and then add that to their column. This from Dr. Dee

    March 14, 2012 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. erica1112

    I met someone that used to work at the Coca-Cola headquarters. She told me that soda, especially DIET soda, was toxic chemicals in a can and to be very afraid. You might as well put a bullet in your brain. Its much faster and more cost efficient.

    March 14, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Fitastic

    There are plently of things that are unhealthy for us – the secret is moderation. Don't follow everything that's published in these papers. Inform yourself. I track all my nutritional goals including sugar and fat intake at http://www.shoppinglistgen.com. If you're concerned then take action for yourself!

    March 14, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jim

    Do they still sell soda with sugar in it? Who would drink it? I haven't tasted a regular coke in 20 years.

    April 5, 2012 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Danna

    I have personally had a fliamy member that was affected by aspartame usage. Diet soda contains aspartame which is a neuro-toxin. The toxicity effects of aspartame use can be:seizures and convulsionsdizzinesstremorsmigraines and severe headaches (Trigger or Cause From Chronic Intake)memory loss (common toxicity effects)slurring of speechconfusionnumbness or tingling of extremitieschronic fatiguedepressioninsomniairritabilitypanic attacks (common aspartame toxicity reaction)marked personality changesphobiasrapid heart beat, tachycardia (another frequent reaction)asthmachest painshypertension (high blood pressure)nausea or vomittingdiarrheaabdominal painswallowing painitchinghives / urticariaother allergic reactionsblood sugar control problems (e.g., hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia)menstrual cramps and other menstraul problems or changesimpotency and sexual problemsfood cravingsweight gainhair loss / baldness or thinning of hairburning urination other urination problemsexcessive thirst or excessive hungerbloating, edema (fluid retention)infection susceptibilityjoint painbrain cancer (Pre-approval studies in animals)deathAspartame use can also mimmick symptoms or worsens the following diseases:fibromyalgiaarthritismultiple sclerosis (MS)parkinson's diseaselupusmultiple chemical sensitivities (MCS)diabetes and diabetic Complicationsepilepsyalzheimer's diseasebirth defectschronic fatigue syndromelymphomalyme diseaseattention deficit disorder (ADD and ADHD)panic disorderdepression and other psychological disorders

    April 8, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kishore

    It has been proved that Coca Cola is an excellent toilet cleaner – it has so much acidity – and morons continue to drink it and profit the coke company .
    Indra Nooyi , the CEO of Pepsi does not drink her own company's products – she knows better.

    June 1, 2012 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. 9Edge1st

    I drink 2 to 3 cans of Pepsi or Coke a day and have for years. I'm 67 now and enjoy every drop. As for the acid in it, try your own stomach acid if you want something really caustic. I am so healthy now as I have been all my life. So what's the big gripe about? If you want to protect yourself from the world, go live in a bubble. As for me, I'm going to live life to its fullest.

    June 22, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Low Purine Diet

    Wonderful! I have been looking for this info , thanks for posting, low purine diet.

    September 16, 2012 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. globalmedscanada

    Here I want to point out one thing also "who drank just one sugary drink a day had a 20% higher risk of heart disease" So keep away from Sugary Drink and reduce chances of Heart Disease.!!!

    October 11, 2012 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply

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