According to a new review, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages can seriously damage heart health.
Consuming one or two servings a day of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to a 35 percent greater risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease, a 16 percent increased risk of stroke and as much as a 26 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, nutrition research scientist behind the review concluded.
Sugar-sweetened beverages account for about one-half of added sugars in the US diet. One can of regular soda contains about 35 grams of sugar, which is equal to nearly seven teaspoons. Manufacturers most often use either table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten beverages. Both sugar sources contain roughly equal parts of two simple sugars — fructose and glucose, which researchers believe can damage the heart.
The researchers point out that sugars in sweetened beverages, as opposed to sugars inherent in foods, have a stronger impact on the body, because in the liquid form they can be very rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. Limiting or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages and other foods with added sugar is a good step towards a healthier diet.
The US Department of Agriculture has proposed a new Nutrition Facts label that will identify the amount of sugar added to a product, versus the amount that occurs naturally in the food. For example, a container of yogurt might note that 9 grams of sugar come from the milk in the product, but that another 10 grams of sugar have been added to make the yogurt even sweeter.
Until the new label is available, consumers can avoid added sugars by paying close attention to the current Nutrition Facts label, which does list total sugars, and by scanning the list of ingredients for dextrose, sucrose, molasses, sugar, syrup or high-fructose corn syrup. If any of those are listed, then they are added sugars and are best avoided.