Sugary Drinks Linked to Risk of Dying Early

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If you’re like most people, you can’t make it through the day without a soft drink.

But this sweet-tooth habit may be causing significant health problems and shortening your life span.

A recent study by the American Heart Association found that adults over the age of 45 who drink a lot of soft drinks have a greater risk of dying from heart disease as well as other health issues.

“It’s very easy to over-consume sugary drinks because your calorie intake is ingested in liquid form,” said Andrea McCarty, MS, RDN, CDE, a dietitian and diabetes education coordinator at Mon Health Medical Center. “You don’t get as full as you would with foods and it’s easy to drink a lot of calories without realizing it.”

No sugarcoating the link

The AHA study showed that a quarter of those who drank at least 24 ounces a day of sugary beverages – the equivalent of 3 cans of soda – had twice the risk of death from coronary heart disease compared to those who drank less than 1 ounce a day.

Another study found that people who drink 2 sweetened beverages a day are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Given these facts, it’s no surprise that the state that leads the country in heart disease and diabetes is also the state with the highest consumption of sugary beverages. In fact, West Virginia’s average consumption totals 500 12-ounce sugary drinks per person per year, according to a recent study by Emory University.

Interestingly, the AHA researchers didn’t find the same association with sweet desserts.

“Not only are there a lot more grams of sugar in a soda than a cookie, our bodies also metabolize sugary food differently than sweet beverages,” Andrea said. “Desserts tend to balance the sugar with protein and fat, while soda contains empty calories that can cause a spike in your insulin levels.”

But that doesn’t mean you should trade your sugar fix from soft drinks for more desserts.

According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, less than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugars. The AHA recommends consuming no more than 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men of added sugar a day.

Kicking the soft drink habit

Sugary drinks linked to risk of dying early

If you can’t cut out sweet beverages altogether, Andrea suggests limiting yourself to a single 12-ounce soft drink a day. However, she advises against quitting cold turkey. Instead cut back your daily consumption incrementally.

“It’s tough because a lot of sugary drinks contain caffeine, which is highly addictive,” she said. “And when drinking soda becomes part of our daily routine, it’s hard to control. So start by replacing a routine sugary drink daily, and then continue to scale back every day or every couple days.”

If you find yourself craving the carbonation of soda, Andrea recommends naturally flavored seltzer water. Fruit-infused water is another healthy alternative, without the carbonation.

If you like fruit juice, Andrea recommends only drinking 100% juice – but no more than 60 calories a day.

Slashing your sugary drink consumption is not only good for your heart, but it will also help you lose weight and provide natural energy.