Sugar sweetened drinks risky for woman's heart disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sugary drinks boost a woman's risk of heart disease.
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Research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2011, finds women who drink two sugary drinks a day – sodas or flavored water with sugar added – are four times more likely to develop high triglycerides which lead to diabetes and heart disease, even if they don’t gain weight.

According to the finding, which comes from The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) study, the same finding doesn’t apply to men.

Researchers say sugary drinks contribute to a woman’s, but not a man’s risk of heart disease, because women need fewer calories than men.

"Women who drank more than two sugar-sweetened drinks a day had increasing waist sizes, but weren't necessarily gaining weight," said Christina Shay, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

"These women also developed high triglycerides and women with normal blood glucose levels more frequently went from having a low risk to a high risk of developing diabetes over time."

The researchers say they aren’t sure why heart disease develops in women from sugar sweetened beverages if they’re not gaining weight – something they hope to figure out with more research.

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For the study, researchers looked at surveys in 4,166 African-American, Caucasian, Chinese-Americans and Hispanic adults 45 to 84 years old.

At the start of the study, women of the participants had cardiovascular disease.

People in the study were observed for weight gain, monitored for low levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels and high ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, as well as waist circumference, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

A study published April, 2010 also showed women, but not men, are more likely to develop heart disease from consuming carbohydrates with a high glycemic index.

"Most people assume that individuals who consume a lot of sugar-sweetened drinks have an increase in obesity, which in turn, increases their risk for heart disease and diabetes," said Shay.

“Although this does occur, this study showed that risk factors for heart disease and stroke developed even when the women didn't gain weight."

The study found women, but not men who consume even two sugary drinks a day have a significantly higher chance of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The results were compared to women who drink one or less sodas or flavored sugar water a day.

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