Sugary Beverage Consumption Linked to Abnormal Lipid Levels

February 28, 2020
Sydney Jennings

Associate Editor of Patient Care Online

Drinking 12 oz/day of sugary drinks a day can lower good cholesterol levels and increase triglyceride levels, according to a new prospective study.

Daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels and increase triglyceride levels, according to a new population-based, prospective cohort study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“For some time, we have known sugary drinks can have a negative effect on Americans’ health status, yet the assumption for many is that they only contribute to weight gain,” said Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the American Heart Association (AHA), in a AHA press release. “This research reinforces our understanding of the potential negative impact sugary drinks have on blood cholesterol, which increases heart disease risk. It is yet one more reason for all of us to cut back on sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Researchers, led by Nicola McKeown, PhD, a nutrition epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, hypothesized that dyslipidemia could be a factor in the rise of cardiovascular disease risk from drinking sugary beverages.

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“This research reinforces our understanding of the potential negative impact sugary drinks have on blood cholesterol, which increases heart disease risk. It is yet one more reason for all of us to cut back on sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.”

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To test their hypothesis, researchers examined observational data of approximately 5924 participants from the Offspring and Generation 3 cohorts of the Framingham Heart Study. Participants were followed for a mean of 12.5 years between 1991 and 2014; mean age at baseline was 54.8 years among Offspring participants and 40.3 years among Generation 3 participants.

The Offspring cohort of the Framingham Heart Study included children of the original study participants, and the Generation 3 cohort included grandchildren of the original participants, the press release noted.

Researchers defined the study beverages as:

  • 12 oz of sugary drinks (eg, sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, presweetened coffees and teas).

  • 12 oz of low-calorie sweetened beverages, including naturally and artificially sweetened “diet” sodas or other flavored drinks.

  • 8 oz of 100% fruit juices, including apple, grapefruit, orange, and other juices derived from whole fruits without added sugar.

Participants were classified into 5 groups depending on how often they drank the different types of beverages, ranging from low intake (<1 serving/month) to high intake (>1 serving/day).

Researchers found that the participants who drank >12 oz of sugary beverages daily had a 53% higher incidence of high triglycerides and a 98% higher incidence of low HDL-C vs those who consumed <1 serving/month.

Participants who regularly drank low-calorie sweetened beverages did not have an increased risk of dyslipidemia. Also, the study showed that regular consumption of up to 12 oz of 100% fruit juice/day was not linked to adverse changes in cholesterol or dyslipidemia. Researchers did note, however, that further research is needed to warrant that finding.

The study reaffirms findings of previous cross-sectional analyses with prospective data. Researchers did note that 1 potential study limitation is that participants self-reported their dietary intake, which could lead to misclassification.

“Reducing the number of or eliminating sugary drink consumption may be one strategy that could help people keep their triglyceride and HDL cholesterol at healthier levels,” said McKeown in the AHA press release. “And, while our study didn’t find negative consequences on blood lipids from drinking low-calorie sweetened drinks, there may be health consequences of consuming these beverages on other risk factors. Water remains the preferred and healthiest beverage.”

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