Sugar: The bitter truth

Don’t wanna dye from heart disease – stop drinking sugary beverages!

A new science article published on March 18 in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation shows that sugar-sweetened drinks – when consumed frequently – increase your risk of a premature death from cardiovascular diseases. It also seems, although to a lesser extend, that a lot of sugary drinks can promote cancer as well.

Picture shows Organs in a transparent body illustration.

According a new study, sugar is causing premature death from cardiovascular diseases. Source: The Amercian Heart Association.

Sugar caused premature deaths

The researchers examined data from 37,716 men and 80,647 women, and tried to find an association between their drinking habits – primarily sugar-sweetened beverages or artificially sweetened beverages – and death.

The study results show that people who drank more sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and sports drinks for example, had a higher risk of death from cardiovascular diseases. The researchers also found that substitution of a sugary drink per day with an artificially sweetened drink, slightly lowered the death risk.

Artificial sweeteners are not much better than sugar

Nevertheless, drinking lots of artificially sweetened drinks is not a solution at all, like the study shows. Especially in women, the effect of artificial sweeteners had deleterious effects: The participating women who drank more than four drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners a day had a higher risk of dying from varied cardiovascular diseases again.

Although, like the researchers state, the latter finding was not as strong as the death risk associated with sugary drinks and the data have to be verified in further studies, being careful with consuming artificially sweetened drinks is not a bad idea.

Water instead of sugar extends your life

Vasanti Malik, Sc.D., who is the lead author of the scientific article and a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, said: „Drinking water in place of sugary drinks is a healthy choice that could contribute to longevity, and diet soda should only be used helping frequent consumers of sugary drinks cutting back their consumption.“

Since Robert Lustig, MD at the University of California, published its renowned video called Sugar: the bitter truth, the message that too much sugar is not good for our health, in fact it makes us sick, has reached the public. Especially in the U.S., which have had the highest consumption rate of sugar sweetened soft drinks over a long period of time, people seem to wake up now.

American food is making the world thicker and sicker

According to new consumption data, American people have been drinking fewer sugary drinks in the last years. Despite of this good news, soda drinks and other sugary drinks are still representing the single largest source of added sugar in the diets of the U.S. population. And another bad news has to be considered, although the consumption in the U.S. seems to shrink, it is rising around the world. In each country where American food begun its triumphal march, people are getting slowly thicker and sicker.

Did you know, that the thickest country all over the world is Saudi Arabia? And according to the WHO (World Health Organization) the obesity rates in the EU are rising from year to year as well. Currently, more than half (51.6 %) of all European adults are overweight, 35.7 % are considered pre-obese, and 15.9 % are already suffering from a substantial obesity.

Besides cardiovascular diseases, obesity and its negative health consequences like diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, for instance, are on the rise globally. The link between extensive sugar consumption and weight gain as well as health problems related with weight gain has been studied extensively.

Actually, there is no doubt that too much sugar in our diet can lead to all these health problems mentioned above. But now, this new study gives us a first clue that too much sugar-sweetened beverages or artificially sweetened beverages could even be linked to premature mortality.

Artificial sweetener only to start your transition

Although there is some indication that a large quantity of artificially sweetened drinks could increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, The American Heart Association recently issued a science advisory on artificially sweetened drinks.

The note concludes that artificially sweetened drinks may be a useful strategy for adults, who are habitually high consumers of sugary drinks and want to make the transition to water.

How reasonable is a sugar tax?

Much more worried about sugary drinks is Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition. According to him, the data provide further support to limit the marketing of sugary beverages, especially for children and young people, the professor suggests.

He also is in favour of the implementation of a soda tax, because the current price would not include the costs of treating the health consequences of excess sugar consumption. Whether a soda tax could fix this problem is however highly disputed, especially before the background that sugar seems to have a similar addictive potential like many drugs. If you are addicted to sugar, „saying no“ is not that easy.

I have to cite Robert Lustig again, who said it so right in one of his many presentations: „Did Nancy Reagans „Just say no“ really help her to stop drinking alcohol?“ Obviously not!

The conclusion of this new study seems to be clear: Limit your sugary drinks and try to replace most of them by pure water. You don’t have to give up your sweet habits all at once, but limiting your consumption, especially of sweet drinks – sugary or artificially sweetened -, is a really good idea to start with. Let’s start today, stay healthy and live longer!


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