They’ll tell you these sugary drinks are linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
But fewer Alaska parents know that sugary drinks are also linked with heart disease.
During this Valentine’s week — when all of the focus is on the heart — here are a few things to know about how limiting sugary drinks may keep your heart healthy.
Sugary drinks include more than just sodas
. They include sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened powdered mixes, vitamin-enhanced water beverages, and tea and coffee drinks with added syrups and sugars. These drinks can contain a high amount of added sugar. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda or a sweetened fruit-flavored drink can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. A tall glass of a sweetened powdered drink mix can have 11 teaspoons of added sugar. A 20-ounce sports drink can have 9 teaspoons of added sugar.
Kendra Sticka, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said studies show that when you increase the percentage of calories that come from added sugars, you increase your risk of dying from heart disease. This increased risk was reported in the 2014 “Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine,”
and was found after adjusting for several other factors, including Body Mass Index (BMI), diet quality, and physical activity and education levels.
Another recent study published in “Circulation”
showed that each sugary drink matters in terms of health. After adjusting for a number of factors (smoking, physical activity, BMI, diet quality and more), the study showed that each additional sugary drink per day increased the risk of heart disease. Sugary drink consumption was associated with a higher level of inflammation in the body, and inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, Sticka said.
A 2016 Scientific Statement focused on children and issued by the American Heart Association (AHA)
said there is strong evidence supporting a link between added sugars and increased risk for heart disease in kids.
“Far too many children consume too much added sugar, and that puts them at risk for serious health problems,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
Children and adults are drinking too many sugary beverages, and the added sugar from these drinks is associated with an increase in unhealthy cholesterol in the blood – a risk factor for heart disease. Atherosclerosis
— a condition in which fats and cholesterol can build up and harden and narrow your blood vessels — can start in childhood, the AHA Scientific Statement said. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks, strokes and death.
According to the AHA Scientific Statement, sugary drinks contribute about half of the added sugar in children’s diets. They also provide little to no nutritional value. Given that, the AHA recommends that children and adolescents limit their added sugar intake every day and limit their sugary drink intake to 1 or fewer 8-ounce drinks each week. That’s fewer ounces than you’ll find in most sugary drinks sold on the shelves at grocery stores.
Cutting back on sugary drinks, in whatever way you can, will make a difference in your health.
“Any decrease is going to be a benefit,” Sticka said.
Want to reduce the number of sugary drinks you serve your children? Find ways to make water an easier choice
for your family. Have cold pitchers of water ready for your children in the refrigerator. Cut up fruits, like lemons or limes, and put them in a glass of water for a refreshing drink. Give your child their own special water bottle, or straw for their glass, to make it a drink they’ll want to choose.