Sugar-free soft drinks linked to increased risk of death

Regular consumption of both sugared and artificially sweetened soft drinks may lead to an early death, researchers have found.

The findings, produced by the largest study of its kind, align with public health efforts to minimise soft drink consumption.

"Results appear to support ongoing public health measures to reduce the consumption of soft drinks," says the study. 

Dr Neil Murphy, a co-author of the research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, says more research is required to reveal exactly how artificial sweeteners can affect our health.

The study, published in the Jama Internal Medicine journal, analysed data from more than 450,000 people across 10 European countries, including the UK. 

Participants had an average age of just over 50, and those with severe health conditions at the outset were not included in the analysis. Each participant was initially asked questions regarding their lifestyle, diet and nutrition - including their soft drink consumption.

Individuals joined the study between 1992 and 2000, and were followed up for an average of 16 years. More than 41,600 deaths were recorded during this time.

Only 9.3 percent of those who drank less than one glass of soft drink a month died during the study, compared with 11.5 percent of those who drank two or more 250ml glasses per day. 

Once factors such as diet, body mass index, exercise, education and smoking were taken into account, researchers concluded that those consuming two glasses a day have a 17 percent higher risk of death than those who drink less than one glass a month.

Similar results were seen regardless of gender and the trend was evident for both sugared and artificially sweetened beverages.

"Consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks was positively associated with deaths from circulatory diseases, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks were associated with deaths from digestive diseases," says the study.

However, the study is limited by its reliance on self-reporting - participants were only asked about their lifestyle and drink consumption at one point during the analysis.

Experts have commented on the fact that artificially sweetened drinks are still associated with an increased risk of death, despite being marketed as a healthier choice.


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