·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

Sugary Drinks & Heart Health: How Many Is Too Many?

— March 28, 2024

Two or more sugary beverages weekly can cause significant health issues despite an active lifestyle, study shows.

Sugary beverages, such as soda, have long been under scrutiny for their potential health risks, particularly concerning heart health. Recent research has shed light on the alarming impact of these drinks, suggesting that even minimal consumption can significantly harm cardiovascular well-being.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed unsettling findings, indicating that as little as two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per week can negate the cardiovascular benefits of regular physical activity.

The study, spanning over three decades and including data from 100,000 adults, underscores a sobering reality: the detrimental effects of sugary drinks on heart health persist despite efforts to maintain an active lifestyle. Even individuals who adhere to the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity are not shielded from the heightened risk of cardiovascular disease associated with sugary beverage consumption.

Dr. Hosam Hmoud, a cardiologist fellow at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital, highlights the relationship between sugary drinks and gut health. The ultra-processed nature of these beverages disrupts the delicate balance of bacterial communities in the gut, creating conditions conducive to plaque buildup in major arteries. This disruption not only fuels chronic inflammation but also amplifies the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other grave illnesses.

Sugary Drinks & Heart Health: How Many Is Too Many?
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

While exercise has long been extolled for its health benefits, including its ability to reduce baseline inflammation, the inflammatory effects of sugary beverages can outweigh the positive impacts of physical activity. Dr. Brooke Aggarwal, an assistant professor of medical sciences, emphasizes that while exercise is undoubtedly cardioprotective, it cannot single-handedly counteract the deleterious effects of sugary drinks on cardiovascular health.

Sugary drinks, with their sky-high sugar content, pose a number of health risks. Jacquelyn Davis, a registered dietitian, elucidates the adverse health consequences associated with soda consumption, ranging from weight gain and tooth decay to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Excessive sugar intake can wreak havoc on the body, contributing to elevated triglyceride levels, arterial hardening, and chronic inflammation—all precursors to cardiovascular ailments.

The debate surrounding diet soda remains contentious, with lingering uncertainty regarding its health implications. While diet soda may offer a reprieve from excess sugar intake, recent studies have linked its consumption to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, albeit to a lesser extent than regular soda. Moderation is advisable, but experts unanimously advocate for the elimination of sugary beverages from one’s diet.

The American Heart Association advocates for strict limits on added sugar intake, urging individuals to consume no more than 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. Given that a single can of soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons of added sugar, curtailing sugary beverage consumption is paramount for preserving heart health. Dr. Aggarwal recommends adhering to public health guidelines, limiting sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to under 12 ounces per week.

When it comes to healthier beverage choices, water remains the undisputed champion. Dr. Aggarwal discusses the importance of hydration, advocating for plain or sparkling water as the optimal choice for quenching thirst. Additionally, she recommends herbal teas, flavored water infused with natural ingredients, and smoothies made with real fruit and milk as nutritious alternatives to sugary drinks.

This shows that the pernicious effects of sugary drinks on heart health cannot be overstated. Abandoning sugary beverages and adopting healthier drink options, individuals can take proactive steps toward safeguarding their cardiovascular well-being and enhancing their overall health and vitality.


Drinking 2 servings of sugary drinks like soda per week may harm heart health

Sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened beverage consumption, physical activity, and risk of cardiovascular disease in adults: a prospective cohort study

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

How much sugar is too much?

Join the conversation!