(NaturalNews) Many studies link consumption of sugary soft drinks (including non-carbonated beverages) to serious health consequences. One of these is heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and one of the most costly. Unfortunately, according to a recent Gallup survey nearly half of all Americans drink at least a glass of soda a day while the average consumption is 2.5 glasses. While diet drinks are popular, most soda drinkers still favor the regular sugary variety. All of this suggests that population wide reductions in sugary drink consumption could result in improved health and wellness and serious reductions in health care costs.
The heart disease and soda connection may be independent of weight gain
Links between soda consumption, weight gain and heart disease seem obvious. However, recent research suggests drinking sugary beverages is sufficient to increase heart disease risk even in the absence of weight gain.
In a study of 4,000 ethnically diverse individuals aged 45 to 84 who did not have cardiovascular disease, researcher Christina Shay, PhD found that women who drank two or more sugar sweetened beverages daily were four times as likely to develop higher than average levels of triglycerides compared to those who drank less than one of these beverages per day.
The two or more drink women also had more belly fat and higher blood glucose levels, both linked to increased cardiovascular risk. Of special note, however, is Dr. Shay's finding that these risks increased even in women who were of normal weight. This means even thin women have a higher risk of heart disease when they drink sugary beverages.
The association between sweet beverage consumption and heart health was not observed in men in this particular study.
Heart attacks in men associated with drinking sugary beverages
A heart disease soft drink link was, however, found in a 2012 article published in the journal Circulation that analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow Up Study. This is a 22+ year study which includes a data base of nearly 43,000 men.
Controlling for factors such as age, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet quality and BMI, the researchers found a significant association between sugary beverage consumption (including sodas and non-carbonated beverages) and coronary heart disease. This means, as in the women's study cited above, thin, non-smokers still increase their chances of a heart attack if they choose to drink sugary beverages.
In addition, the researchers reported that the impact of sugary drink consumption on heart disease appeared to be cumulative. In other words, heart disease risk increased 19 percent to 25 percent for each additional daily drink.
Substantial savings possible from lower soft drink consumption
Over one-third of Americans have some form of heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack or stroke and the annual cost to treat these conditions exceeds $272 billion, according to studies cited by the Scientific American. Based just on what we know about the aging of the population, these figures are predicted to exceed $818 billion over the next 20 years.
Our soft drink consumption may mean these estimates are too low, however. The Gallup survey found that some of the biggest soda drinkers are young adults,a finding that could have serious implications for the future of their health and that of the US health care system if they persist in this behavior. On the other hand, one way to improve health and wellness and substantially reduce health care costs would be to encourage reduced consumption of sugary beverages at all ages.
About the author: Celeste Smucker is a freelance health writer and blogger with years of experience in sales and marketing. She is also a meditation teacher and staff member at Synchronicity Foundation located in Virginia's blue ridge mountains.
In addition to writing for NaturalNews.com she blogs about how to live younger longer with joy and vitality at celestialways.com.