There are many “secrets” to leading a long and healthy life (though they aren’t really secrets). One of them – which I’m sure you’ve heard time and time again – is to limit sugar intake (especially added sugars). One of the best ways to do that is to cut down on sugary, health-hazardous beverages.
According to numerous pieces of research, any sugar-sweetened drink can cut years off of your life, including sports drinks, fruit drinks, and energy drinks. Just because there is a picture of fruit on the label doesn’t mean it’s safe for consumption.
And, as you will see, just because you see the word “diet” on the label, you shouldn’t assume that means “healthier.”
Findings of a Recent Study
To look for a potential link between sugary drink consumption and early death, researchers analyzed information from more than 80,000 women and 37,000 men in the health profession and followed the participants for about 30 years. Each participant was asked to complete a survey about their diet every 4 years, and they answered questions about their lifestyle and overall health every 2 years.
The more sugary drinks a participant consumed, the greater their risk of death was during the study period.
- Those who consumed 2-6 sugary drinks per week were 6% more likely to die during the study period, compared to those who drank less than 1 sugary drink per month.
- People who drank 1-2 sugary beverages per day were 14% more likely to die during the study period, compared to those who drank less than 1 sugar-sweetened drink per month.
The findings remained unchanged after researchers accounted for other risk factors for early death and disease, including smoking, alcohol use, physical activity levels, and consumption of fruit and vegetables, and red meat.
In a statement, lead study author Vasanti Malik, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, said:
“Our results provide further support to limit intake of SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) and to replace them with other beverages, preferably water, to improve overall health and longevity.”
Strong Link to Heart Disease
In the study, sugary beverage consumption was particularly strongly linked with an increased risk of death from heart disease. Participants who drank 2 or more sugary drinks per day had a 31% higher risk of early death from heart disease, compared to those who imbibed infrequently.
Dr. Walter Willett, study co-author and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the same institution, said:
“These findings are consistent with the known adverse effects of high sugar intake on metabolic risk factors; and the strong evidence that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages increased the risk of Type 2 diabetes, itself a major risk factor for early death.”
Another Main Cause: Cancer
The second main cause of early death in the study was cancer, primarily of the colon and breast. 
Another important takeaway from the study was the finding that diet drinks may not necessarily be safer alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages. Women who consumed 4 or more servings of artificially-sweetened drinks per day had an increased risk of early death. 
Compared with women who drank sugary beverages less than once a month, women who had more than 2 servings a day had a 63% increased risk of early death. Men who did the same had a 29% increased risk. 
That doesn’t necessarily mean that diet drinks directly caused early death in those people; it may be that people with known heart disease risks switched to diet drinks because of their existing health conditions.
The team said that more research is needed to better examine the link between high diet beverage consumption and heart disease. Another important thing to note is that the study revolved around surveys and self-reporting – which is a method notoriously-known for its inaccuracies.
The study is published in the journal Circulation.
 Live Science