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Sugary Drinks Tied to CVD Risk Factors Just for Women

Women who regularly drink sugary beverages may be increasing their cardiovascular risk….

According to Christina Shay, PhD, of the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, a longitudinal study showed that those who reported drinking at least two sugar-sweetened beverages every day were more likely to gain weight, increase waist size, and develop impaired glucose tolerance.

The same associations were not seen in men, which suggests that the factors responsible for the relationship between sugary drinks and cardiovascular disease differ between the sexes. “Women exhibit lower energy requirements overall and they may be at elevated risk for … cardiovascular risk factors when a greater proportion of calories is consumed in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages,” she said at a press briefing.

Sugar-sweetened beverages have been associated with a host of health problems, including weight gain, obesity, hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. But few of the studies have examined the relationships in ethnically diverse populations.

So Shay and her colleagues turned to the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), in which 38% of the participants were non-Hispanic white, 28% were black, 22% were Hispanic, and 12% were Chinese American.

All 4,166 men and women included in the current analysis were ages 45 to 84 and were free from cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes at baseline. They reported dietary habits on a food frequency questionnaire completed at baseline. Sugar-sweetened drinks included regular soft drinks, soda, sweetened non-diet mineral water, and nonalcoholic beer. Overall, 8.4% of the participants reported drinking at least two sugary beverages each day.

Through about five years of follow-up, women with that level of consumption were more likely to have more than 3% increase in waist circumference (63.7% versus 54.1%), to have high triglycerides (24.3% versus 10%), and to have impaired fasting glucose (26.8% versus 20.4%) compared with women who drank less than one sugary beverage a day.

The differences remained significant after adjustment for several potential confounders, including both baseline weight and weight change throughout the study.

None of the associations was statistically significant for men.

This study reinforces the American Heart Association’s message that a heart-healthy diet limits sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 450 calories or 36 ounces per week.

Practice Pearls
  • Point out that in this study, increased intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by women, but not men, was associated with increased waist circumference, hypertriglyceridemia, and impaired fasting glucose.
  • Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal

American Heart Association: Shay C, et al “Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and incident cardiovascular risk factors: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)” AHA 2011; Abstract 8438.