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Solid evidence: Drinking regular cola likely boosts heart disease risk

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday March 17, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Observational studies and short term intervention studies already suggest that sugar-sweetened soft drinks (SSSDs) or regular cola or sodas may be partially responsible for the epidemic of obesity and the increased risk of metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disorders in the United States and other developed counties. 

Now a new trial released on Dec 28, 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that drinking sucrose-sweetened beverages for 6 months increased ectopic fat accumulation and lipids among other things, compared with drinking milk, diet cola, and water.

For the trial led by Maria Maersk of Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark and colleagues, 47 overweight subjects were randomly assigned to 4 different drinks in a dose of 1 liter per day, sugar-sweetened beverages or regular cola, isocaloric semiskim milk, aspartame-sweetened diet cola and water.

At 6 months of the dietary intervention, subjects in the regular cola group had significantly higher liver fat (132 to 143 percent higher), skeletal muscle fat (117 to 221% higher), visceral fat (24-31% higher), and blood triglycerides (32% higher) and total cholesterol (11% higher), compared to the data obtained at baseline.

Milk and diet cola were found to reduce systolic blood pressure by 10 to 15%, compared with regular cola.  Diet cola had the same effects as those of water, the researchers reported.

Maersk et al. concluded that "daily intake of SSSDs is likely to enhance the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases."

Sugar in the soft drinks used in the study was sucrose, but not high fructose corn syrup, which an health observer suggested can be worse than sucrose.

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