ABA Responds to Study Linking Sugary Drinks, Heart Disease Risk in Men

In yet another report linking sugary drinks to potential health risks, a Harvard-backed long-term study found that the consumption of sugary drinks increased the risk of heart disease in men by 20 percent, as compared to men who abstained from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. The American Beverage Association (ABA) promptly issued a statement refuting the findings of the study and stated that, “Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study or any other study in the available science.”

The new report, published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal, utilized data from the Health Professionals Follow-up study, which has been gathering information on 42,883 men for the last 22 years. Researchers found that the consumption of two 12 oz. sugary drinks a day was linked to a 42 percent increase in risk of heart disease, and a 69 percent increase in risk for men who drank three sugar-sweetened beverages a day. The study, which took into account other risk factors for heart disease, including family history, alcohol use, smoking, and physical inactivity, found that men who consumed artificially sweetened beverages or sugary less frequently didn’t increase their risk of heart disease.

In its response to the report, the ABA noted that the study involved a group of subjects “comprised almost entirely of white men of European descent ages 40 to 75,” and that researchers acknowledged that they were unable to control for all confounding factors, including stress, and that the subjects may be dissimilar to those living in the general population. Additionally, the ABA stated that “The authors found an association between consuming sweetened beverages and cardiovascular risk, but this could have been the result of other lifestyle changes over the 22-year study period involving men 40 to 75 years of age.”

Here is the ABA’s full statement responding to the study:

March 12, 2012 – In response to “Sweetened Beverage Consumption, Incident Coronary Heart Disease and Biomarkers of Risk in Men,” a paper published today in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, the American Beverage Association issued the following statement:

“Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study or any other study in the available science. The authors found an association between consuming sweetened beverages and cardiovascular risk, but this could have been the result of other lifestyle changes over the 22-year study period involving men 40 to 75 years of age.”

Additional Background Information:

On the Study:

  • The authors looked at a group of subjects comprised almost entirely of white men of European descent ages 40 to 75. In fact, the authors noted among the limitations they cited that their subjects may be dissimilar to those living in the general population. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the study’s conclusions cannot be extrapolated to the broader overall population.
  • In the paper, the authors also acknowledged that they were unable to control for all confounding factors, including stress, which is a risk factor for CHD as identified by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
  • In addition, the authors reported changes in some biomarkers of cardiovascular health. While there were statistically significant changes in these biomarkers, this is not the same as increased cardiovascular disease.

On Heart Disease and Risk Factors:

  • Heart disease is a complex problem with no single cause and no simple solution.
  • When it comes to risk for heart disease, there is nothing unique about the calories from added sugars, or sugar-sweetened beverages for that matter. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, the major risk factors for heart disease are: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive, unhealthy diet and stress.
  • While many risk factors are beyond our control, there are things we can do – including not smoking, maintaining an appropriate body weight and being physically active – to help mitigate risk for heart disease.
  • If we truly want to reduce the incidence of heart disease, health professionals as well as other stakeholders must educate Americans about the risk factors and encourage people not to smoke (or not to start smoking) and maintain a healthy weight by balancing calories consumed – which includes eating a sensible, balanced diet – with calories burned by engaging in regular physical activity.
  • When it comes to calories, our industry is helping consumers by providing clear calorie labels which put calorie information right at their fingertips so they can make a choice that’s right for them. The beverage industry announced the Clear on Calories initiative in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign.