Study: Sugary drinks linked to lower levels of 'good cholesterol'

Published: Feb. 27, 2020 at 2:05 PM EST
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New research shows that sugary drinks can cause a lot more damage than just weight gain.

They're filled with calories and lack nutrients, yet sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks and fruit-flavored drinks are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet. Now, new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds drinking more than 12 ounces of sugary drinks a day is linked to lower levels of so-called good cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol, and higher levels of triglycerides in middle aged and older adults.

"This is important because both of those findings have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr Luke Laffin, a preventive cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

Previous studies have shown the negative health effects of added sugars. Dr. Laffin says most of that data was related to weight gain. "This study shows that there is a more clear link or association between changes in cholesterol patterns, so lends to the theory that it's not just the weight gain that contributes, it actually changes physiology with respect to blood cholesterol," he said.

The American Heart Association recommends eliminating sugary drinks for better heart health and lower risk of heart attack and stroke. And, no surprise, water is preferred and healthiest.

"Really getting rid of those sugary drinks, starting with our kids, it's going to be helpful to setting those examples because the effect can be cumulative over a life time as well," Laffin said.

Low calorie sweetened drinks did not negatively impact blood lipids in the study, but researchers say that doesn't mean those drinks don't have other health consequences.