The study, titled Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption is Associated With Change of Visceral Adipose Tissue Over 6 Years of Follow-Up, said there is a correlation between regular sugary beverage intake and a change in visceral adipose tissue in middle age adults.
“In contrast, we observed no such association for diet soda intake,” the study said. “The present study supports current dietary recommendations that limiting [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption may be helpful to prevent cardiometabolic diseases.”
Abdominal adipose tissue, especially visceral adipose tissue (VAT), commonly referred to as belly fat, has been linked to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health problems. The study said both the quantity and quality of the belly fat are associated with cardiometabolic health risks.
Researchers viewed abdominal CT scans of just more than 1,000 adults who were daily soda or sweetened beverage drinkers and compared the scans with adults who did not consume these beverages.
According to the study, those who drank at least one serving of sugar-sweetened beverage per day had a 27% greater increase in VAT over a six year span than those who did not consume these sugary beverages.
“Taken together, these findings suggest that habitual [sugar-sweetened beverage] intake was associated with a long-term adverse change in visceral adiposity, i.e., increased VAT volume and decrease in VAT attenuation, independent of weight gain,” the study’s authors wrote.
In assessing diet soda, researchers did not include all consumption of low-calorie and artificially sweetened, non-carbonated beverages.
The mean age of study participants was 45.3 years, with 45% being women. Participants were examined at baseline and six years later at the Framingham Heart Study’s Third Generation Cohort.
Issues from too many sugary beverages
The study’s authors wrote that excess consumption of sugary beverages that contain fructose may trigger insulin resistance and increase fat accumulation. Fructose can be especially bad for organs, as it is primarily metabolized in the liver and converted to triglyceride. These may be converted to diacylglycerols and impair pathways in the body, thereby leading to cardiovascular diseases.
According to Dr. Caroline Fox, the study’s lead author and medical officer with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study and Population Sciences Branch, the message to consumers is to follow dietary guidelines and be mindful of how much sugar they are consuming at all times.
“To policy makers, this study adds another piece of evidence to the growing body of research suggesting sugar-sweetened beverages may be harmful to our health,” she said.
Funding for the study came from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption is Associated With Change of Visceral Adipose Tissue Over 6 Years of Follow-Up
J. Ma, N. McKeown, S. Hwang, U. Hoffman, P. Jacques; C. Fox