Consumption of sugary beverages may double risk of death from CAD

Adults over the age of 45 who consumed 24 ounces or more of sugary beverages had twice the risk of death from coronary artery disease (CAD) than people who drank less than one ounce, according to new research presented March 21 at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health scientific sessions in New Orleans.

To determine if there was an association between sugary beverages and risk of death, researchers utilized data from more than 17,000 black and white individuals over the age of 45. The cohort did not have a self-reported history of heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes.

Using a questionnaire, researchers estimated the cohort’s sugary food and beverage consumption. Sugary beverages were noted as being pre-sweetened—including sodas and fruit drinks—and sugary foods included desserts, candy and sweetened breakfast foods as well as foods with added calorie-containing sweeteners like sugars and syrups.

The cohort was monitored for an average of six years and death records were used to determine the cause of death, with special focus on deaths caused by heart disease.

The results proved the same even when controlling for heart disease and socioeconomic risk factors, as well as race, smoking habits and physical activity.

“There were two parts of this question we wanted to understand,” said lead author Jean Welsh, PhD, MPH, of Emory University and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. “Do added sugars increase risk of death from heart disease or other causes, and, if so, is there a difference in risk between sugar-sweetened beverages and sugary foods? We believe this study adds strong data to what already exists highlighting the importance of minimizing sugary beverages in our diet.”

There was no increased risk of death from the consumption of sugary foods.

Welsh added the findings should encourage healthcare providers to have open discussions with their patients regarding sugary beverage consumption during visits.

“We know that if healthcare providers don't ask patients about lifestyle practices linked to obesity and chronic disease, patients tend to think they’re not important,” Welsh said. “Simply asking patients about their sugary beverage consumption is valuable.”