Sugary drinks. As tasty as they may be, any joy gleaned from drinking these beverages is momentary, with the impact to the body significant and enduring if you are knocking these back on a regular basis.
It is well documented that excess sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption is correlated with weight gain,1 and a few sips provide a sugar high from which we soon come crashing down, only to crave more.
Beyond these, there are other impacts on the body we should be concerned about.
Sugary drinks and metabolic function
A recent review noted that one SSB a week, such as a can of soft drink, could raise blood pressure. Two cans increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This is because sugary drinks provide large doses of quickly accessed added sugars, such as fructose and glucose, which the body has to work hard to rapidly metabolise. This places immense strain on body organs and systems. Long-term, this may lead to various issues with health, including cardiometabolic diseases such as heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.
Individuals may experience metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including high blood pressure, abdominal weight gain, increased blood triglycerides, decreased HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
To further add to this growing area of research, a recent trial undertaken by the Baker’s Institute2 studied the impact of sugary drinks on the metabolic function of the body in a ‘real world’ situation, where prolonged sitting with no activity and up to 750ml of soft drink consumed between meals each day is common.
The small, randomised control trial took 28 overweight and soft drink sipping participants, aged 19-30 years, and compared the impact two sugary drinks had on blood glucose and lipid metabolism with water consumption. The drinks were taken after breakfast and lunch at mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
The researchers found when sugary drink consumption was combined with 7-hours of sitting, circulating fatty acids and triglycerides levels were reduced, indicating suppressed lipid metabolism. Simultaneously, blood glucose and insulin levels were significantly elevated.
What does this mean for us?
“The acute metabolic effects outlined in this study are very worrying and suggest that young, overweight people who engage in this type of lifestyle are setting themselves on a path toward chronic cardiometabolic disease,” says senior study author Professor Bronwyn Kingwell.
“This highlights significant health implications both for individuals and our healthcare system.”3
The moral of this sweetened and seated story? Sugary drinks are not required in the human diet. Regular overconsumption of added sugars can increase the risk for weight gain and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, liver and heart disease.
So, sub them out for water (sparkling or plain, and maybe infused with fresh slices of fruit) and make sure you move regularly throughout each day to reduce the risk of some pretty serious health conditions.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- World Health Organization 2015, Sugars intake for adults and children: Guideline, viewed 31 October 2018, <https://www.who.int/elena/titles/ssbs_adult_weight/en/>
- Varsamis, P et. al 2018, “Between-meal sucrose-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glycaemia and lipid metabolism during prolonged sitting: A randomized controlled trial,” Clinical Nutrition Journal, viewed 31 October 2018, <https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(18)32392-6/>
- Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute 2018, Study reveals the damaging metabolic effects for inactive, young, obese people who consume soft drink regularly, media release, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, 17 September, viewed 31 October 2018, <https://www.baker.edu.au/news/media-releases/soft-drink-metabolic>