Soft Drinks

Sugar and sugar-free?

How about avoiding both?

There’s little doubt that high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages predicts adverse health outcomes. But the links between artificially sweetened beverages and health remain unsettled. Researchers at Harvard and elsewhere recently reported results from 80,647 women followed for 34 years in the Nurses’ Health Study and 37,716 men followed for 28 years in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Higher consumption of artificially sweetened beverages predicted significantly greater risk of mortality for women but not for men.

Other researchers evaluated links between soft drink consumption and mortality for 451,473 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Compared to participants who drank less than one glass of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened soft drinks per month (8.5 US fluid ounces), those who drank more than two glasses per day had 8 and 26 percent higher risk of dying of any cause during follow-up. Those who consumed two or more glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks per day had a 52 percent higher risk of dying from circulatory diseases. Consumption of at least 17 fluid ounces per day of either sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened soft drinks predicted greater risk of death during 16.4 years of follow-up compared to very low consumption. If you have switched to artificially sweetened soft drinks from the sugar-sweetened alternative to improve your health, think again.

Still another new study used data from 81,714 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Compared to women who consumed less that one artificially sweetened beverage (ASB) per week, those who drank at least two per week had a 16 to 53 percent higher risk of all-cause mortality over an average follow-up period of 11.9 years, depending on how many confounding factors were considered. For coronary heart disease, the comparable increase in risks were 29 and 94 percent. Women with no prior risk of hypertension or type 2 diabetes and who drank at least two ASBs per week had a 144 percent higher risk for the small brain vessel occlusion type of stroke compared to women who drank less that one ASB per week.

Drinking artificially sweetened beverages might be preferable to drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. But your best bet would probably be to cut back on oth kinds of soft drinks. How about drinking water instead?

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