rinking sugar-sweetened beverages every
day was associated with an increase in a
particular type of body fat that may affect
diabetes and heart disease risk, according to
research in the American Heart Association’s
Data from the Framingham Heart Study showed that
among middle-aged adults, there was a direct correlation
between drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages and
increased visceral fat.
Visceral fat wraps around a number of important internal
organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. Visceral fat
affects how our hormones function and is thought to play a
larger role in insulin resistance — which may boost Type 2
diabetes and heart disease risk.
Researchers looked at both sugar-sweetened beverage
and diet soda consumption. The researchers did not observe
this association with diet soda, which is often promoted as low
in calories and sugar.
“There is evidence linking sugar-sweetened beverages with
cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes,” said Caroline S.
Fox, M.D., M.P.H, lead study author and a former investigator
with the Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute. “Our message to consumers is to follow
the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much
sugar-sweetened beverages they drink. To policy-makers, this
study adds another piece of evidence to the growing body
of research suggesting sugar-sweetened beverages may be
A total of 1,003 study participants, average age 45
and nearly half of whom were women, answered food
questionnaires and underwent CT scans at the start and the
end of the study to measure body fat changes.
They were placed into one of four categories based on
their soda intake: nondrinkers; occasional drinkers (
sugar-sweetened beverages once a month or less than once a
week); frequent drinkers (once a week or less than once a
day); and those who drank at least one serving daily.
Over a six-year follow-up period, independent of the
participants’ age, gender, physical activity, body mass
index and other factors, they found that visceral fat volume
• 658 centimeters cubed (approximately 40 inches cubed)
• 649 centimeters cubed (approximately 39.6 inches
cubed) for occasional drinkers;
• 707 centimeters cubed (approximately 43 inches cubed)
for frequent drinkers; and
• 852 centimeters cubed (approximately 52 inches cubed)
for those who drank one beverage daily.
While the exact biological mechanism is unknown, Jiantao
Ma, M.D., Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow at the NIH and co-leader
of the study, said that it’s possible that added sugars may
contribute to insulin resistance, a hormonal imbalance that
increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor
of added sugar intake in the United States. Sucrose or high
fructose corn syrup are two of the most common sugars
found in these popular drinks, which include caffeinated and
decaffeinated soda, carbonated and non-carbonated drinks
with added sugar, sports and energy drinks, flavored milks,
fruit juice drinks with added sugar, sweet tea and lemonade.
Daily consumption of added sugar, such as those found
in sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods,
is high; from 2001 to 2004, the usual intake of added
sugars for Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day or an
extra 355 calories. Growing evidence revealing the health
risks associated with drinking sweetened beverages led
the American Heart Association to provide added sugar
recommendations in 2009; for most women, no more than
100 calories per day of added sugars, such as those found
in sweetened beverages, and for most men, a limit of 150
calories per day.
SUGAR-SWEETENED DRINKS LINKED
TO INCREASED VISCERAL FAT