The study by Lawrence de Koning et al. was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, and also found that, overall, consumption of artificially sweetened beverages was not associated with an increased risk.
Trade body the ABA (members of which include the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Doctor Pepper Snapple) quickly hit back: “Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease, not based on this study or any other study in the available science," it said.
“The authors found an association between consuming sweetened beverages and cardiovascular risk, but this could have been the result of other lifestyle changes over the 22-year study period involving men of 40 to 75 years of age.”
Little work done to date
Noting an association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, weight gain and risk of type-2 diabetes, the authors said that little work had tested for a relationship with coronary heart disease (CHD) or intermediate biomarkers, while the role of artificially sweetened drinks remained unclear.
de Koning et al. analysed data from 42,883 men (principally of white European descent, and mainly dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, osteopath physicians and veterinarians), enrolled in the Harvard School of Public Health-administered Health Professionals Follow-up Study, begun in 1986.
The scientists examined associations of cumulatively averaged sugar-sweetened sodas and artificially sweetened (diet) soda intake with incidences of fatal and non-fatal CHD.
Food frequency questionnaires were sent to study participants every four years, asking them to report usual intake (upon the basis of ‘never’ to 6+ times per day) of a standard 355ml serving of sugar-sweetened colas, other sugar-sweetened drinks, and artificially-sweetened beverages.
Age, smoking, alcohol adjustments
The team found 3,683 CHD cases over a 22-year follow-up, while participants in the top quartile of sugar-sweetened beverage intake (3.7 servings per week to 9 per day) had a 20% higher relative risk of CHD than those in the bottom quartile (never consumed such drinks) after adjustments for confounding factors such as age, smoking, physical activity, and alcohol.
However, the scientists found that artificially sweetened beverage consumption was not significantly associated with CHD or increased triglycerides, although, again, sugar-sweetened beverages were.
Summing up, de Koning et al. wrote: “Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of CHD and some adverse changes in lipids, inflammatory factors and leptin [high concentrations of which are associated with obesity]."
Title: ‘Sweetened Beverage Consumption, Incident Coronary Heart Disease and Biomarkers of Risk in Men’
Authors: L. de Koning, V.S Malik, M.D Kellogg, E.B Rimm, W.C Willett, F.B. Hu.
Source: Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association, March 12 2012. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.067017