Harvard links sugary drinks to increased risk of death; calls coffee and tea safer options, ET HealthWorld

New Delhi: People with type-2 diabetes can consume coffee, tea (without sugar), or plain water, instead of soda, energy drinks, fruit drinks etc. A recent study conducted at Harvard found that people with type-2 diabetes who regularly consume sugar-heavy drinks, such as soda, are more likely to die prematurely due to heart disease.

The research finding was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) this April. It is claimed to be one of the first studies to look at the effects of sugary drinks on people with type 2 diabetes. Qi Sun, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who was also a part of the study said that this was the first large-scale epidemiological study that systematically examined common beverages in relation to mortality and cardiovascular disease.

More than 12,000 people participated in the study

The study was conducted using health data collected from a large group of participants, including both women and men, who had been diagnosed with T2D at some point during the study. The use of longitudinal data spanning an average of 18.5 years is significant because it allowed researchers to assess the impact of various factors and interventions on T2D outcomes over an extended period. By using data from two different studies, the researchers were able to compare and contrast findings between different populations and contexts.
The data on the participants’ diets was collected every two to four years which included information on how often the participants consumed sugar-sweetened beverages, including sodas, lemonades, fruit juices, coffee, tea, low-fat milk, full-fat milk, and plain water.

Risk of premature death was less in those who consumed non-sweetened beverages

The participants who consumed sugary drinks daily were found to be at risk of developing Type-II diabetes and were found to be at the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and dying prematurely of obesity. But those who drank clean water, coffee or even tea, were found to be far from these risks.

The people who consumed healthier drinks mentioned above were found to be away from the risk of death from any cause by up to 18 per cent and those dying from cardiovascular diseases by up to 24 per cent.

Heart disease mortality decreased by about 15 per cent for those who replaced one sugary drink with an artificially sweetened beverage. This means that the results of the study are consistent with what is already known about the negative effects of sugar-sweetened beverages on health. The expert quoted as saying that “it is a well-established fact that these types of drinks are unhealthy, and the study’s findings are further confirmation of this”.

A well-established fact is “sugary drinks are unhealthy”

A research study was conducted in 2019 that focused on the effects of consuming sugary beverages on over 13,000 adults over a period of six years. The study discovered that consuming more sugary beverages led to an increased risk of mortality from any cause by 11 per cent. Additionally, every additional serving of fruit juice consumed was associated with a 24 per cent higher risk of mortality from any cause. This implies that consuming sugary beverages and fruit juice may be harmful to overall health and may increase the risk of death.

Thus, most experts suggest switching to non-sugar drinks for better health outcomes. All in all, the conclusion from this research is that people should be more aware of what they drink to keep their bodies hydrated. If you are trying to cut down on sugar, one of the best ways is to switch to artificially sweetened beverages and then to water. This slow transition can help people reduce their sugar intake gradually.


  • Updated On Apr 27, 2023 at 04:18 PM IST
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  • Published On Apr 27, 2023 at 04:13 PM IST
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  • 3 min read
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