High Consumption of Soft Drinks Linked to Increased Risk of Death
People who regularly consume soft drinks — both sugared and artificially sweetened — are at a higher risk of death from all causes, according to a new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization. While the negative health effects of soft drinks are well-known and regularly researched, this study is among the largest to show a correlation — not causation — between soft drink consumption and all-cause deaths, as well as, cause-specific deaths.
These findings are based on data from 452,000 participants (30% male and 70% female), from 10 European countries, none of whom had been diagnosed with health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer at the outset of the study. The researchers interviewed the participants over a period of 16 years about their consumption of “low calorie or diet fizzy soft drinks,” “fizzy soft drinks, e.g. cola, lemonade,” and “fruit squash or cordial.” In the duration of the study, 41,600 deaths were recorded.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found 9.3% of people who died had less than, or equal to, one glass of soft drink per month, in comparison to 11.5% of those who drank two or more 250-milliliter glasses of soft drinks per day. This translates to a 17% higher risk of death from all causes for those who drink more than two glasses of soda daily, after accounting for factors such as diet, education, BMI, exercise levels and smoking habits.
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Additionally, the study found those who consumed artificially-sweetened soft drinks were more likely to die due to circulatory diseases; those who consumed sugar-sweetened soft drinks were more likely to die because of digestive diseases. Overall, soft drink consumption was associated with a greater risk of death from Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, no such association was observed with cancer or Alzheimer’s mortality.
The study is not without its shortcomings. It does not establish soft drinks as a driver of an increased risk of death. However, the study supports public health efforts to reduce the consumption of soft drinks, such as the U.K.’s increased tax on sugary drinks. “Our results … provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with other healthier beverages, preferably water,” Dr. Neil Murphy, a co-author of the research, said while speaking to The Guardian. The study emphasizes earlier research linking soft drink consumption with obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. These studies also only establish association and not causality; but, considering how an increasing number of studies are coming up with similar associations between soft drinks, sugar, artificial sweeteners, ill-health and now, even mortality — it’s time we start taking these yellow flags as seriously as red ones.