Men who drink two or more glasses of soda or other sweetened drinks a day may have a greater risk of heart failure, a Swedish study suggests.
Previous research has linked high consumption of sugary beverages with several risk factors for heart failure, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weight gain, diabetes and obesity, said study leader Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
To confirm the relationship between heart failure and sweetened beverages, Larsson and colleagues followed a group of about 42,000 men for an average of almost 12 years. To assess drinking habits, they asked the men how many soft drinks or sweetened juices they drank per day or per week.
Over the course of the study, there were about 3,600 new cases of heart failure.
Men who had more than two sweetened drinks a day had a 23 percent greater risk of developing heart failure during the study than men who didn't consume these drinks.
The study can't prove that sugary drinks cause heart failure. Still, Larsen said by email, "The take-home message is that people who regularly drink sweetened beverages should consider reducing their consumption."
Even though the study was done in men, women should also be wary of sugary drinks, Larsson added. "Sweetened beverage consumption has been associated with blood pressure, insulin concentration, weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes also in women," Larsson noted.
More than 23 million people worldwide have heart failure, which happens when the heart isn't strong enough to pump enough blood and oxygen through the body. The prevalence of the condition is rising due at least in part to consumption of sodas and other sweetened beverages, Larsson and colleagues note in the journal Heart.
In the current study, roughly half the men denied drinking any sodas or sweetened juices, while slightly more than one in six said they consumed less than half a serving per day. Only about one in seven men admitted to at least a twice-daily habit.
Men who drank the most sodas and sweetened beverages were less likely to be university educated, slightly more likely to drink at least three cups of coffee a day, and typically consumed fewer servings of vegetables.
One shortcoming of the study is its reliance on men to accurately recall and report their drinking habits, the authors acknowledge. The researchers also lacked data to distinguish between sugar and artificial sweeteners.
It's also possible that other factors not measured in the study, such as physical activity or dietary habits, might have influenced whether the men developed heart failure, Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez and Miguel Ruiz-Canela of the University of Navarra in Spain wrote in an accompanying editorial.
Even so, the findings add to a growing body of evidence linking sodas and other sweetened beverages to heart disease, they wrote.
"Sweetened beverages lead to weight gain and obesity and this leads to diabetes and heart failure," Martinez-Gonzalez told Reuters Health by email. "The take home message is to drink water instead of sweetened beverages."