In the March 12, 2012 issue of Circulation, researchers from Harvard reported some frightening observations in men with moderate sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption.
This level was defined as roughly equivalent to one can of soda each day. Even after taking into account other cardiac risk factors, SSB drinkers had a 20 percent higher incidence of heart disease than non-drinkers. This relationship was not identified in patients who drank artificially flavored soda. While the study looked at only men, there is no reason to expect a lower risk in women.
Whereas a link between SSB use and both type two diabetes and weight gain had previously been established, an association with coronary heart disease has not. In this study, the authors looked at data from a long term follow up of 50,000 male professionals and their health, dietary and lifestyle habits. In addition, blood samples were drawn to analyze cholesterol and other potential predictors of cardiovascular disease. There was a significant correlation between consumption of SSBs and heart disease, as well as lower HDL (good cholesterol), and elevated markers of potential cardiac risk (c-reactive protein, leptin and triglycerides).
This is important news. The intake of soda and sweetened beverages has markedly increased over the years, and is a source of significant caloric intake, particularly in children and adolescents. One can of soda contains about 130 calories. When you compare that with the guidelines of the American Heart Association calling for a maximum of 100-150 calories a day from all added sugars, you can see how the numbers (and the pounds) can add up over time. Walking around and observing the habits of people in the malls or at fast food restaurants will confirm that, as a society, we are SSB junkies.
Appropriate fluid intake advice needs to be as basic to health and wellness counseling as cigarette cessation and exercise. In total, the adage of eight glasses of eight ounces of fluid each day is pretty much on target. This will help keep you in balance, and make up for losses in breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements.
The best fluid is simple water. It lacks calories, chemicals or preservatives. It is cheap and available. The other mainstay should be milk because of the added benefit of calcium, necessary for bones and metabolic processes. Natural, no sugar added vegetable and fruit juices are also great thirst quenchers, although the latter may be a source of excess sugar.
So sit down with your family, check out the beverages in your refrigerator, and agree on healthy choices of drinks for the next visit to the supermarket.