American adults who drink one (or more) sugary drinks a day have a 27% greater increase in abdominal fat tissue compared with Americans who don’t, according to a new data analysis from the Framingham Heart Study in the journal Circulation.
Deposition of fat in this location is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which produce adverse health consequences.
Although the exact biological mechanism is unknown, added sugars—especially fructose—may trigger insulin resistance and increase fat accumulation, which raises the risks for these serious consequences.
In this investigation, researchers enrolled 1,003 participants (mean age 45) from the Framingham Study’s Third Generation cohort and measured their quantity and quality of abdominal fat tissue at baseline and again 6 years later using C.A.T. scans. Subjects also reported their sugar-sweetened beverage and diet soda intake on a food frequency questionnaire.
Over a 6-year follow-up period—and after adjusting for participants’ age, gender, physical activity, body mass index, and other factors—abdominal fat tissue volume increased by:
- 658 cm3 for non-drinkers and occasional drinkers (once a month or less than once a week)
- 707 cm3 for frequent drinkers (once a week or less than once a day)
- 852 cm3 for those who drank at least 1 beverage daily
The researchers concluded that, although age alone accounts for increasing fat, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages led to a significantly greater increase in abdominal fat tissue. In contrast, they observed no such association with drinking diet soda. Needless to say, observation of general dietary guidelines is also required to minimize accumulation of excess fat.
As a result, the researchers urged all people to be mindful of how many sugar-sweetened beverages they drink. To policy makers, this study adds more evidence to the growing body of research suggesting sugar-sweetened beverages may be harmful to health, providing arguments for public efforts to restrict such consumption.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest contributor of added sugar intake in the United States. In 2001 to 2004, the usual intake of added sugars for Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day, or an extra 355 calories. The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 100 calories per day of added sugars for most women and 150 calories per day for most men.
This information simply adds more support to the idea that sugar, in itself, is a dangerous dietary component. I will disclose more about this in the next blog.