Sugary drinks may strongly harm your cholesterol levels, increase heart disease risk

In a new study, researchers found that middle-aged and older people who drank sugary beverages daily were at greater risk of developing abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

They found people who drank at least one sugary beverage daily had a 98% higher chance of developing low HDL (good) cholesterol and a 53% higher chance of developing high triglycerides.

The researchers observed similar results when they examined long-term intakes of sugary beverages during a follow-up time of about 12 years.

The research was led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (HNRCA).

Cholesterol and triglycerides are part of what is commonly referred to as a complete cholesterol test.

When some elements of the test are abnormal, the condition is called dyslipidemia, which affects roughly half of American adults.

Elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, along with low good cholesterol levels, indicate a higher risk for heart disease.

The team says that high intake of drinks with added sugar, such as soda, lemonade or fruit punch, may influence the risk for dyslipidemia as people age.

One dietary strategy to help maintain healthier blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels may be to avoid drinks with added sugars.

The researchers also found that high sugary beverage drinking was linked to HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels that were moving in the wrong direction among daily sugary beverage drinkers—even for a group of adults whose average age was in their 40s.

The researchers also studied 100% fruit juice and diet drinks, common replacements for sugar-sweetened beverages, but found no consistent associations with adverse changes in cholesterol. Still, the researchers urge moderation.

They say people are better off quenching their thirst with water.

The emerging research on long-term consumption of diet soda on health is inconclusive, so it is prudent to say diet drinks should only be an occasional indulgence.

As for 100% fruit juice, best to limit consumption and consume whole fruits when possible, as recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The lead author of the study is Nicola McKeown, a nutritional epidemiologist at the HNRCA.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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