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Artificially sweetened drinks and sugary drinks linked with an increased risk of heart disease

Researchers say both types of drinks should be avoided for optimal health outcomes

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Photo (c) Wittayayut - Getty Images
While most efforts to reduce sugary drink consumption have been aimed at the youngest population, recent studies have identified the heart health risks associated with a high intake of sugar-filled beverages. 

Though many consumers have made the switch to artificially-sweetened drinks as they were believed to be a healthier alternative, a new study conducted by researchers from the American College of Cardiology has found that neither sugar-sweetened drinks nor artificially-sweetened drinks lead to good heart health. Their work revealed that both types of drinks can increase consumers’ risk of developing heart disease. 

“Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks, and these data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labeling, and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages,” said researcher Eloi Chazelas.  

Avoiding sweetened drinks

To see the effect that sweetened drinks can have on heart disease risk, the researchers analyzed medical records of over 104,000 participants in the French NutriNet-Santé study. Every six months, the participants logged everything they ate and drank over three different 24-hour periods. Based on their consumption of artificially-sweetened and sugar-sweetened drinks, participants were divided into three groups, and the researchers then followed up with them over the course of a 10-year period. 

Overall, those who drank the highest amounts of both sugary drinks and artificially-sweetened drinks were at the highest risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

For this study, cardiovascular disease was indicated by one of five primary markers: angioplasty, transient ischemic attack, acute coronary syndrome, stroke, and myocardial infarction. Even after accounting for other factors that could contribute to heart disease, the association between sweetened drinks and heart disease remained. 

Risks of artificial sweeteners

While a lot of work has been done to reduce consumers’ intake of sugary drinks, artificially sweetened drinks have been seen as a healthier alternative. However, in addition to cardiovascular disease, several recent studies have pointed to the health risks associated with drinking artificially-sweetened beverages, as they can greatly upset the digestive system, and increase the risk of stroke and MS symptoms

Moving forward, the researchers hope that legislators do their part to better regulate these types of drinks, as doing so could greatly benefit consumers’ health in several ways. 

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