For the study, tracked more than 451,000 adults from 10 European countries none of whom had already been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke beforehand for up to 19 years, making it one of the first of its kind in Europe.They found that men and women who had two or more glasses of sugary drinks per day had a higher risk of death from digestive diseases affecting the liver, pancreas, intestines and appendix. Drinking the same amount of artificially sweetened diet drinks daily was associated with a higher risk of dying from circulatory diseases.
In general, drinking soft drinks was associated with Parkinson’s disease, but the researchers found no link to cancer or Alzheimer’s risk. It’s unclear why diet sodas in particular were linked to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases. It may be that this finding is actually due to “reverse causation” — in other words, people who were already at risk for heart disease at the start of the study switched to drinking diet sodas before they filled out the researchers’ survey. But the researchers tried to account for this by excluding deaths that occurred early on in the study’s follow-up period, and they still found a link between diet soda consumption and death from cardiovascular diseases.
Sugar-sweetened beverages may lead to weight gain and obesity. They also may affect the way the harmone insulin is used in the body, which can lead to inflammation, Murphy noted. All of these things can lead to health conditions that may shorten life. The council’s medical adviser, Dr. Keri Peterson, added: “The safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners has been reaffirmed time and time again by leading regulatory and governmental agencies around the world.”
It’s also uncertain why regular soda consumption was linked to an increased risk of death from digestive diseases. It’s possible that high blood sugar levels may alter the gut lining and increase the risk of gut infections, which in turn increases the risk of certain digestive diseases, the authors said. But again, more research is needed to investigate this.