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article imageEssential Science: Soft drink consumption and mortality risk

By Tim Sandle     Sep 9, 2019 in Science
Researchers have examined data connecting soft drink consumption and the risk of early mortality and concluded that there is a connection. This relates to an International Agency for Research on Cancer study.
The analysis is based on a major, longitudinal European study. The research finds that participants who consumed less than one glass of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened soft drinks per month, those who consumed two or more glasses of such beverages per day were associated with a higher risk of mortality. The reasons for death were multi-causal.
Big data from Europe
The research was based on a survey of over 450,000 people, who were enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Health data was collected and assessed from day one, and then at a typical follow-up period some 16 years later.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study is a cohort study examining connections between diet and cancer (plus other chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease). It represents the largest study of diet and disease to be undertaken anywhere in the world.
What does the research say?
In relation to the research specifically focused on soft drinks, two comparison groups were formed. In the first group were those who drank less than one glass of sugar-sweetened or artificially sweetened soft drinks each month. In the other group, were people who consumed two or more glasses of such sweet drinks each day.
Severe obesity
Severe obesity
Tony Alter (CC BY 2.0)
Sugary drinks include beverages such as:
Regular cola, lemonade and other soft drinks sweetened with sugar
Cordial and squashes such as a blackcurrant juice drink
Flavoured water sweetened with sugar
Energy drinks and sports drinks
Tea and coffee with added sugars or syrups
Milkshakes and frappés
As well as a connection with different types of cancer, the research additionally showed an association with regular consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks and deaths from circulatory diseases. Furthermore, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks each day was associated with deaths from digestive diseases.
Research paper and related data
The research has been published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, with the research paper headed “Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries.”
A separate study published in the British Medical Journal found that the consumption of sugary drinks was positively associated with the risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. This included fruit juices. The data indicated that sugary drinks, which are widely consumed in Western countries, might represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention.
A refreshing  Diet  beverage
A refreshing "Diet" beverage
frankieleon (CC BY 2.0)
It follows that when we consume more calories (in any form) than we burn off, we can become overweight and being overweight increases cancer risk. For instance, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada research demonstrates how data suggests that “soda, energy and sports drinks are the top calorie source among North Americans ages 12 to 50.” And that as children get older, they get more sugar overall from soft drinks.
Another study has associated soft drinks to other health issues, such as having higher risks of having stroke and dementia.
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This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we looked at the latest application of drones, for consumer deliveries, hobby use, and with military deployment, assessing these three innovations with drone technology.
The week before we looked at new carbon atoms which are spherical, and which have several key industrial uses, promising improvements to electronic devices.
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