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Soft DrinksThe Framingham Heart Study released the results of an observational study that associates the consumption of soft drinks to an increased risk for coronary vascular disease. The results were published in the July, 2007 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The researchers expressed surprise at that fact that it did not matter whether the soft drink was diet or regular. “We were struck by the fact that it didn’t matter…the association with increased risk was present.” said Ramachandron Vasan, M.D., and senior author of the study and professor of medicine at Boston University. “In those who drink one or more soft drinks daily, there was an association of an increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome.”

Metabolic syndrome is a relatively new term to describe a cluster of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors that include high blood pressure, excess waist circumference, high triglycerides, low HDL, and high fasting glucose.

The study, which included approximately 9000 person observations of middle aged men and women showed that those who consumed one or more soft drinks per day had a 48% percent increase of prevalence in metabolic syndrome as compared to those consuming less than one soft drink per day.

There has been some press regarding the potential health affects of high fructose corn syrup, a common but relatively new sweetener; however this study shows equal risk increase regardless of the sweetener type contained in the soft drink.

Theories by the research group include that, potentially, the high sweetness of the drinks makes a person more prone to eat sweet items, that the caramel content in soft drinks may promote the development of advanced glycation end products, and potential complexes of sugars that can result in insulin resistance can cause inflammation in experimental models.

Whatever the ultimate mechanism leading to increased risk, it seems all too simple to substitute water for soft drinks.

Other observations for people who drink at least one soft drink per day include:

  • 31 percent greater risk of developing new-onset obesity (defined as a body mass index [BMI] of 30 kilograms/meter2 or more)
  • 30 percent increased risk of developing increased waist circumference.
  • 25 percent increased risk of developing high blood triglycerides or high fasting blood glucose.
  • 32 percent higher risk of having low HDL levels.
  • A trend towards an increased risk of developing high blood pressure that was not statistically significant

The Framingham Heart Study was established in 1948 to identify the common factors or characteristics that contribute to CVD by following its development over a long period of time in a large group of participants who had not yet developed overt symptoms of CVD or suffered a heart attack or stroke. The Framingham Heart Study is joint project of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Boston University.