One risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, may be sugary drinks. Analysis of data collected on 42,883 men in the “Health Professionals Follow-Up Study,” published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, linked a daily 12-ounce serving of a sugar-sweetened drink to a 19 percent increase in the relative risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with higher levels of unhealthy triglycerides and C-reactive protein (a byproduct of inflammation), and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Senior study author Frank B. Hu, Ph.D., a physician and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, Massachusetts, cautions that diet sodas are not a good alternative. “Some studies have found a relationship between diet soda and metabolic disease,” he notes.