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Diet Soft Drinks Contribute to Heart Disease Risk

It's common knowledge that people who consume sugary soft drinks tend to put on the pounds. But for all you virtuous individuals who stick to diet sodas, surprisingly, it turns out that there's no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to soft drinks, even diet ones. Drinking more than one soda a day -- regular or diet -- appears to increase the risk factors for heart disease, warn Framingham Heart Study researchers.


Harvard Medical School researcher Ravi Dhingra, MD, and study colleagues looked at nearly 6,000 middle-aged men and women who had exams every four years. At the outset, all were free of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Four years later, in comparison to people who drank less than one soft drink a day, researchers found that those who consumed one or more sodas a day experienced:

A 25% increased risk of impaired (or higher than normal) fasting glucose and high triglyceride levels.
A 31% greater likelihood of becoming obese.
A 32% higher chance of lower HDL levels.
A 44% increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
These results were published in the July 31, 2007, issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.


Dr. Dhingra and his colleagues were surprised that regular and diet soft drinks posed similar risks for metabolic syndrome -- which remained the case even when the study was adjusted for dietary factors such as saturated and trans fats, calorie and fiber consumption and levels of physical activity. There are several theories as to why this might be -- perhaps the extreme sweetness of soft drinks makes people more apt to eat sweet foods... or the caramel content may promote insulin resistance and inflammation. But these are theories, and no one knows for sure. Dr. Dhingra cautions that more research is needed to confirm the findings in this study. In the meantime, he advises that people restrict their soft drink intake to be an every-so-often treat.

Source(s): Ravi Dhingra, MD, clinical instructor in medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

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