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January 2016

Sweet Drinks May Affect Heart Health

Add heart failure to the growing list of health problems that may be tied to drinking sweetened beverages.

Man holding cup of orange juice

A recent study found that men who drank two or more servings of sweetened fruit drinks or soda had a 23% higher risk for heart failure compared with men who did not drink any soda or sweetened beverages. Earlier studies have linked sweetened beverages to stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure happens when the heart becomes too weak to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in the feet, ankles, and legs.

Swedish researchers followed the health of more than 42,000 men between 1998 and 2010. The men were ages 45 to 79. They were asked to write down their average consumption of about 100 food and drink items over the previous year.

During the 12 years of the study, published online in the journal Heart, more than 3,600 new cases of heart failure were diagnosed. More than 500 men died of the conditions.

"People who regularly consume sweetened beverages should consider reducing their consumption to lower their risk of heart failure as well as obesity and type 2 diabetes and possibly other diseases," said lead author Susanna Larsson, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Study's limits

The study did not ask the men to note whether the sweetened beverages they drank contained sugar or an artificial sweetener.

But this likely "just reduces the signal," masking what is probably an even greater effect on heart health than observed here, said Christopher O'Connor, MD, director of the Heart Center at Duke University School of Medicine and editor-in-chief of the journal JACC: Heart Failure. "The fact the signal is still there means it's probably real," he said.

Men in Sweden tend to weigh less and are more physically fit than U.S. men, O’Connor said. That means the link between beverages and heart failure is likely to be greater here.

"In the United States, you have people who are farther down the curve," O'Connor said. The potential effect "would be larger and faster here."

 

Learn about making heart-healthy food choices.

 

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