If you’re a fan of sodas, fruit juices and sugary sports drinks, you’re probably not doing your heart any favors.
A new review suggests that regularly quenching your thirst with sugar-sweetened beverages not only contributes to your risk of gaining weight, it also ups your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that raises your risk of heart disease. “Some studies found that consuming as few as two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a week was linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease and stroke,” said study senior author Faadiel Essop, a professor at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
“Others found that drinking at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day was associated with elevated blood pressure,” he said, and added that even more alarmingly, some studies found that sugary drinks could raise blood pressure in teenagers. Metabolic syndrome occurs when you have three or more of the following risk factors for heart disease: abdominal obesity, high levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat), reduced levels of HDL (the good) cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, and higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels (but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes), according to the American Heart Association. The review included 36 studies that looked at the effects of sugary drinks on heart and metabolic health. The studies were done within the past 10 years.
The studies had varied findings, according to the researchers. But most suggested an association between drinks containing sugar and the development of metabolic syndrome. The majority of the studies also looked at people who had more than five sugary drinks a week. It’s not clear exactly how these drinks increase the odds of metabolic syndrome, Essop said. But certainly excess consumption of sugary drinks is linked to a higher waist circumference — a factor in metabolic syndrome — and weight gain. Such drinks have also been tied to decreased insulin sensitivity (a risk for diabetes), inflammation, abnormal cholesterol and high blood pressure, he said.