A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that consumption of soft drinks, whether they’re sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, may raise the risk of premature death.
The study followed more than 400,000 adults enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, a multinational study that recruited participants from 1992 through 2000. The study assessed diet at the start, including soft drink consumption. Participants also filled out lifestyle questionnaires that asked about factors such as educational level, smoking habits, alcohol intake, and physical activity.
After excluding participants who already had conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes at the study’s start as well as those without data on soft drink consumption, the researchers were left with 451,743 participants, who stayed in the study for an average of 16.4 years. The average age at the start was about 51 years. During the study, 41,693 participants died.
When the researchers analyzed their data, accounting for factors that could increase the risk of death, such as body mass index and smoking, they found that participants who consumed two or more glasses of soft drinks per day were 17% more likely to die early compared to those who drank less than a single serving of soft drinks per month.
Those who consumed two or more glasses of sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day were 8% more likely to die early compared to those who drank less than a glass a month and those who consumed two or more glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks a day were 26% more likely to die prematurely compared to those who drank less than a glass per month.
The soft drinks themselves might not be at the root of the association, noted the researchers. For example, high soda consumption may be a marker of overall unhealthy diet.