Sugary beverages such as sodas have long been linked with unwanted health conditions. Now, a new study adds another evidence that should get people to avoid drinking too much of these sweetened drinks particularly if they want to steer free of heart disease and diabetes.

In a new study  to be published in the October issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers have found that soft drinks and other beverages with added sugar in the form of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup increase risks for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Based on analyses of data from recent epidemiological studies, Frank Hu, from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues revealed that consuming at least one serving of sugary drinks per day can increase a person's risks for stroke by 16 percent, type 2 diabetes by up to 26 percent, and heart attack or deadly heart disease by 35 percent.

The researchers investigated how the body metabolizes fructose and determined its link to weight gain as well as in the development of metabolic and cardiovascular problems. Hu explained that the problem can be partly blamed on how fructose behaves in the body.

While glucose is easily absorbed in the gut and taken into the bloodstream where insulin transports it to the cells as fuel, fructose is metabolized in the liver, where it is converted into fatty compounds known as triglycerides.

Triglycerides are known to cause insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Consuming too much fructose  has also been shown to boost accumulation of belly fat, which is also considered as a factor for heart disease. Too much intake of fructose can likewise lead to too much amount of uric acid in the blood which can increase risks for gout.

"Excess fructose ingestion promotes hepatic uric acid production, de novo lipogenesis, and accumulation of visceral adiposity and ectopic fat, which ultimately increase diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk," the researchers wrote in their study.

Hu said that reducing intake of sugar-sweetened drinks or added sugar can prevent cardio-metabolic diseases and produce measurable effects on weight control.  His team likewise recommended opting for better alternatives to sugary drinks such as water, tea and coffee.

Although artificially sweetened beverages may be preferable to sugary drinks in the short term, the researchers said that more studies are needed to assess their long-term effects.

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr 

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