A new study has found evidence that consuming sugary drinks can increase a person's risk for diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

A comprehensive review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed consumption of even just two high-sugar drinks daily can increase the risk for stroke by 16 percent; type 2 diabetes by 26 percent; and heart attack by 35 percent. The researchers found this to be due to the effect of fructose.

"Since we rarely consume fructose in isolation, the major source of fructose in the diet comes from fructose-containing sugars, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, in sugar-sweetened beverages," said Dr. Frank Hu, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

High-fructose corn syrups are widely used as a cheaper alternative to sucrose in many food and drink products. While sugary drink consumption has decreased within the past several years, more than half of the American population still takes them every day.

One out of four Americans gets 200 calories daily from sugary drinks, while around 5 percent get more than 500 calories, roughly equal to four soda cans, a day.

Hu said that this is a troubling finding because sodas and other sweetened drinks have been proven time and again to cause weight gain and obesity.

"Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain because the liquid calories are not filling, and so people don't reduce their food intake at subsequent meals," Hu explained.

Researchers also studied how the body metabolizes fructose and how fructose is linked to the development of chronic health problems and weight gain.

They found that glucose, one of the chemicals that make up sugar, is absorbed into the bloodstream to be used as the body's energy source. Fructose, on the other hand, is then turned into triglycerides, fatty compounds that can lead to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, developing insulin resistance and fatty liver disease. Oversupply of fructose can also cause increased uric acid, which will then lead to gouty arthritis.

Based on their findings, researchers recommend for everyone to reduce sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, in their diet. They emphasized switching to lower sugar alternatives such as water, tea or coffee. Artificially sweetened drinks may be considered, although the team warns that further studies are still needed to look into possible long-term effects.

Hu also added that additional research is needed to understand the effects of consuming different types and forms (liquid versus solid) of sugar.

"Although reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or added sugar alone is unlikely to solve the obesity epidemic entirely," Hu wrote in their paper, "limiting intake is one simple change that will have a measurable impact on weight control and prevention of cardio-metabolic diseases."

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