22 July 2011
The message that obese people should not drink high-calorie, sugar-sweetened, soft drinks is well established. Large quantities of these drinks have been shown to produce adverse effects on fat and carbohydrate metabolism in such overweight people. But studies have not been done on smaller quantities of sugary drinks consumed by lean people.
Now, a new study in Switzerland has shown that even low to moderate consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks in healthy lean people had a detrimental effect on their heart health – over the course of just 3 weeks.
In the study, by researchers at the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, 29 healthy men consumed soft drinks containing different sweeteners. The men were split into groups and each group consumed small to moderate amounts of one type of soft drink for 3 weeks, then after a washout period switched to another drink for 3 weeks, etc, etc, until they had completed all 6 interventions.
The drinks were classified as:
During the study, the researchers tested the men for changes in the size of low density lipoprotein (LDL) fat particles - so-called ‘bad cholesterol’- in their blood. The smaller the particles, the more they are known to contribute to heart and blood vessel disease through atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels).
Significant reductions in LDL particle size were seen with the high fructose and, to a lesser extent, the high sucrose, drinks. However, all of the drink types resulted in a raised fasting blood glucose level, and raised blood C-reactive protein level (an indicator of inflammatory activity in the body).
We already know that removing such sugary soft drinks from the diet of adults and children can reduce the risk of obesity. This study shows that there are other potentially harmful health effects to consider as well and it should reinforce the need for efforts to reduce the consumption of these products, especially in children.
Last Reviewed: 22 July 2011