It is fast becoming a norm in our society today that people hardly take a meal without a bottle of soft drink, and it is more shocking to know that this practice is repeated on the number of times they eat in a day, as scientists have established a correlation between daily soft drink consumption and early death.
According to experts, soft drinks contain a high percentage of sugar, and regular consumption of sugary drinks is linked to numerous health problems including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obesity.
A recent study from JAMA Internal Medicine has shown that people who regularly consume soft drinks have a higher risk of dying earlier than those than consumed glasses of water.
The study, one of the largest of its kind, analyzed data from more than 450,000 men and women from 10 European Countries.
On enrolment, the participants gave information about their food and drink consumption, either by filling in questionnaires or in interviews. Their average age was 51 years old, and 71 percent were female. None had heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or stroke at the outset.
Of the participants taking part in the analysis, 41,693 died during a follow-up that averaged 16.4 years and ranged from 11.1 years in Greece to 19.2 years in France.
The researchers compared deaths during the follow-up in those who said that they drank soft drinks every day with those who said that they consumed hardly any that is fewer than one glass per month.
Soft drink consumption include drinking of fizzy soft drinks such as cola and lemonade; isotonic or energy drinks; diet and low-calorie soft fizzy drinks; and diluted syrups, such as fruit cordial or squash. Soft drinks consumption did not include fruit juice.
Their analysis revealed that consumption of two or more bottles of artificially-sweetened soft drinks a day was positively associated with deaths from circulatory disease. One or more glasses a day of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with deaths from digestive diseases.
At the study outset, the participants also answered questions about their health and lifestyle.
From this information, the researchers were able to rule out any influence from factors such as physical activity, body mass index (BMI), education, smoking, and diet.
A further analysis also revealed that in comparison to consuming hardly any, drinking two or more glasses per day of artificially sweetened soft drinks was tied to a higher risk of circulatory diseases.
In the cases of sugar sweetened soft drinks, the link was to a higher risk of death from digestive diseases.
“No association,” write the authors, “was observed between soft drink consumption and overall cancer death.”
Additionally, the researchers noted they could not establish a direct correlation between elevated soft-drink consumption and a higher risk of death, given the observational design of the study. They pointed out, however, that soft drink consumption may be an indicator of an overall unhealthy lifestyle.
The researchers also said additional studies are needed to investigate the possible health effects of artificial sweeteners on mortality.
“We found that higher soft drink intake was associated with a greater risk of death from any cause regardless of whether sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks were consumed,” said Dr Neil Murphy, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization.
He added, “Our results for sugar-sweetened soft drinks provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with other healthier beverages, preferably water.”
Despite the study’s findings, researchers noted it contains several limitations. Participants were required to report their levels of consumption, except in Greece, Italy and Spain, where data was collected using personal interviews.