In a study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, researchers were surprised to see how drinking more than one low calorie soda a day, may increase the risk of getting heart disease, via an increase in metabolic syndrome.
The metabolic syndrome is a the name given to group of symptoms such as high blood pressure, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol), excess waist circumference, high fasting glucose levels, elevated triglycerides, and excess waist circumference. According to the medical literature, if you have three or more of the metabolic syndrome symptoms’ there is an increase in the person’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The study, started in 1948, is known as The Framingham Heart Study (FHS). The FHS is now in its third generation, examining the cohort of grandchildren of the original patients included in the study. The FHS looks at factors that contribute to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) by following a large group of people, who do not have any previous signs of CVD, over a long period of time.
Dr Ramachandran Vasan, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, lead the study published in Circulation. He and his collaborators found that drinking a soda, whether regular or diet, have the same effects on the risk of getting cardiovascular problems. In those people who drank more than one soft drink (with added artificial sweeteners) a day there was a statistical association with an increase in the risk of developing metabolic disorder, the authors’ study state.
Although this is not the first time that a study finds a correlation between soft drinks and risks of developing health conditions (such as cancer) it is the first time that a study finds out the possibility that soft drinks may behave just as regular drinks in regard to developing metabolic disorders that may lead to obesity.
I am sure that we may hear from the people of the National Beverage Association in regard to this study, but results of Dr. Ramachandran seem to be categorical in the association of soft drinks with metabolic syndrome risk.
People who drank one or more soft drinks a day had a 48 per cent higher chance of having metabolic syndrome than those who drank less, according to the study’s results. He study spanned 4 years and followed 9000 people.
People who did not previously have the metabolic syndrome and who drank one or more soft drinks developed metabolic syndrome for the first time (new onset) in 44% of the cases.
People who drank more than one soft drink a day also had, when compared to people who drank less diet sodas:
“30 per cent higher risk of developing an increased waist circumference”
“32 per cent increased risk of having low HDL (“good” cholesterol)”
“31 per cent greater risk of developing new-onset obesity (defined as a body mass index or BMI of 30 kilograms per meter squared or higher)”
Authors speculate about why soft drinks may cause the results showed in this study. One of the explanations is that perhaps caramel (a key component in sodas) may stimulate the development of complex sugars (high glycation end products) that may result in insulin resistance and cause inflammation in a person’s body.
Vasan, R. at al. 2007. Soft Drink Consumption and Risk of Developing Cardiometabolic Risk Factors and the Metabolic Syndrome in Middle-Aged Adults in the Community. Circulation. Jul 2007; doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.689935. Published online before print July 23, 2007