That casual walk to the grocery store for a few bottles of aerated beverages might not be what your heart wants. Because guess what? With your consistently increasing consumption of high-calorie soft drinks all those artificial sweeteners your favourite cola is laced with slowly begin to increase the cholesterol levels in your body.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association says that drinking just 12 ounces of sugary drinks (that’s about 350 ml) more than once a day can reduce the levels of HDL and increase triglycerides. Both of these raise your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Here’s why a balance between good and bad cholesterol is important
HDL aka high-density lipoprotein is often touted as good cholesterol because of its ability to remove other types of cholesterol from your bloodstream. It is because of this reason that it is considered heart-healthy.
LDL or low-density lipoprotein, on the other hand, is responsible for plaque build-up in the arteries. And triglycerides harden your arteries. Together, both these menaces increase your chances of a heart attack.
This is how sugary colas come into play
Over the years, a plethora of studies has linked added sugar in food to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. And this research is just another drop in the ocean.
“The research reinforces our understanding of the potential negative impact of sugary drinks on blood cholesterol, which increases heart disease risks,” says study researcher Eduardo Sanchez from the American Heart Association.
According to researchers, dyslipidemia–an abnormal amount of lipids in the body–could be the reason why sugary drinks increase CVD risk.
To determine the impact of sugary drinks on triglyceride and cholesterol levels, researchers studied observational medical data of 5,924 people from the Offspring and Generation 3 cohorts of the Framingham Heart Study, who were followed for 12.5 years between 1991 and 2014.
For this study, the beverages were clustered as 12 ounces of sugary drinks, like soda, fruit-flavoured drinks, sports drinks, pre-sweetened coffee, and tea; 12 ounces of low-calorie sweetened beverages, including naturally and artificially sweetened ‘diet’ soda or other flavoured drinks; and 8 ounces of 100% fruit juices with no added sugar.
This is the varied impact of drinking high and low-calorie soft drinks on heart health
Researchers analysed how the different drinks and their consumption correlated with changes in cholesterol and triglyceride levels over four years.
They found consuming sugar-sweetened beverages (more than 12 ounces a day) was linked with 53% higher incidence of high triglycerides and 98% higher incidence of low HDL cholesterol compared with those who consumed less than one serving a month.
Drinking low-calorie sweetened beverages didn’t appear to be associated with an increased dyslipidemia risk among people who regularly consumed low-calorie sweetened beverages.
According to the study, consuming up to 12 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day was not associated with adverse changes in cholesterol or dyslipidemia, though further research is needed to warrant this finding.
“Reducing or eliminating sugary drink consumption may be one strategy that could help people keep their triglyceride and HDL cholesterol at healthier levels,” said lead study author Nicola McKeown from Tufts University in the US.
Now, let’s be honest with ourselves ladies. Even though this research accounts for middle-aged and older Americans, we consume just as many sweetened beverages in a day–if not more.
It’s time for us to re-examine our preferred choice of beverage and completely shun the choice of drinking colas–or at least massively reducing its consumption. It’s a choice between solely satisfying your taste buds or taking care of your body. So choose wisely!
(With additional inputs from IANS)