By: Glenn Ritt, courtesy of One Cape Health News
You swill down that 12-ounce can of cola – all 136 calories.
Here’s what happens next.
Your pancreas is put on alert and begins creating insulin in response to the sugar. Within 20 minutes, your blood sugar levels spike and your liver turns the sugar into fat for storage. Eventually, your body experiences a blood sugar crash, which often motivates you to reach for another soda or some other sweet.
For the half of all Americans who consume at least one sugar-sweetened drink a day, what does this mean to your health?
Recently, one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted attempted to answer this question. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public health found that consuming one or two sweetened drinks per day:
• Increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent
• Heightens the risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease by 35 percent
• Raises the risk of stroke by 16 percent
Previous to that study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology,researchers at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy analyzed sugary drink consumption – soda, sports and energy drinks, sweetened ice tea and fruit drinks – from 62 surveys involving more than 600,000 people in more than 51 countries.
The Tufts researchers’ conclusion: Since 2010, sugary drink consumption was responsible for about 184,450 deaths worldwide, with 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 deaths from cancer.
Now comes the latest study published in October that finds for the first time that these same sugary drinks are linked to congestive heart failure – when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Today, more than five million people in the United States suffer from this condition, which cannot be cured, only managed.
Study author Susanna Larsson, PhD, of the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, concluded that two servings or more per day of sugary drinks increases heart failure risk by 23 percent.
The study’s participants were taken from the Cohort of Swedish Men (COSM), who lived in Sweden and were born between 1918 and 1952. Nearly 49,000 men completed a questionnaire covering a number of parameters, such as physical activity, diet, anthropometric traits and various other lifestyle factors.
Researchers adjusted their results for variables including smoking, caffeine intake, weight, daily amount of physical activity, diabetes, hypertension, fruit intake and processed meat intake.
“We have known that there is an association with all things “bad” and sweetened beverages for some time now,” said Elissa Thompson, MD, a cardiologist at Cape Cod Hospital. “Hypertension, diabetes and obesity are chief among the associated illnesses that have been linked to consumption of excessive amounts of sweetened drinks.”
The novel finding in this Swedish study is that a potential link has been made to congestive heart failure, one of the leading causes of hospitalization for adult patients in the United States, Dr. Thompson noted.
“Congestive heart failure carries a 50 percent mortality rate within the first five years after diagnosis, far deadlier than many cancers,” Thompson added.
“The researchers surmise that because Americans are more obese and are known to consume far greater amounts of sugary drinks than the average Swedish adult, that the effect would be greater in the U.S,” she said.
There is still more research to be done to clarify the true link between sugary drinks and congestive heart failure, but the information can serve as another powerful warning about dietary indiscretion and adverse outcomes, she added.
Courtney Driscoll Shea, Clinical Nutrition Manager for Cape Cod Healthcare, observed that sugary drinks can be “very deceiving.”
“These drinks – particularly energy drinks and ice teas – are loaded with high amounts of calories and sugar. Some could have as many calories as what is recommended for a whole meal,” she explained. “Some contain enough sugar to equal two or three days’ worth of the recommended intake for sugar.
Mallory Hatfield, MD, a cardiologist at Cape Cod Healthcare, cautioned that the Swedish study was “observational,” and not a more reliable double-blind study. It also did not investigate women, nor underlying pathological roots of congestive heart failure.
Still, she commended the researchers for reinforcing the dangers of sweetened drinks.
“Too many people put blinders on when it comes soda and other sugary beverages,” she said. “If you want a sugary drink now and then, okay. But, consuming one or two every day, gosh no!”
Call Duffy at 508-771-9599 to make an appointment with your provider if you have concerns about your health.