Middle-aged and older adults who drank sugary beverages daily were at greater risk of developing abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to those who rarely drank those beverages.
The study, led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, found that adults who drank at least one sugary beverage daily during a follow-up period of four years, had a 98 percent higher chance of developing low HDL (good) cholesterol and a 53 percent higher chance of developing high triglycerides, when compared to the those who seldom consumed sugary drinks.
The researchers observed similar results when they examined long-term intakes of sugary beverages during a follow-up time of 12 years.
Elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, along with low good cholesterol levels, indicate a higher risk for heart disease.
The results suggest that high intake of drinks with added sugar, such as pop, lemonade or fruit punch, can influence risk for abnormal blood cholesterol and triglycerides as we age. Avoiding sugary drinks can help maintain healthier blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The researchers also studied 100% fruit juice and diet drinks, common replacements for sugar-sweetened beverages, but found no consistent associations with adverse changes in cholesterol and triglycerides. Still, the researchers urge moderation and recommend quenching our thirst with water.
The emerging research on long-term consumption of diet soda on health is inconclusive, so it is prudent to say diet drinks should only be an occasional indulgence. It is best to choose whole fruits over 100% fruit juice.
About the study
The researchers analyzed data from more than 5,900 people, comparing changes in blood cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations between exams. Participants were categorized according to the types and frequency of beverages they consumed.
The study participants were examined at intervals of four years on average and followed for about 12 years. The researchers adjusted for other factors known to influence cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, such as obesity, overall diet quality, physical activity, alcohol intake, and the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
There are some limitations to the study, including the use of self-reported food data, which can be prone to error. The findings are also only generalizable to middle-aged or older adults of European descent.
Due to its observational design, the study does not reflect a causal relationship between sugary drink consumption and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
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