The fact that soda and sugary drinks are bad for you isn’t exactly a novel finding, but new research confirms just how unhealthy it is. Taking a hard look at both fructose and sugary drinks, researchers say they may seriously up the odds for weight gain, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“The metabolic effects that we discuss really pertain to high fructose corn syrup and sucrose, which is common table sugar,” says co-author Dr. Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Both contain pretty much the same amount of glucose and fructose, so they’re comparable to one another.”
Malik adds that while soda is sweetened with sucrose in Europe, the U.S. uses high fructose corn syrup as a more affordable alternative.
“There’s this misconception that high fructose corn syrup is really bad, but both sugar and high fructose corn syrup are just as bad as each other,” she says.
Researchers say that despite the fact that overall consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been declining over the last decade, the consumption rate is still dangerously too high.
How high? Fifty percent of Americans consume these kinds of drinks on a daily basis.
“Even though it’s going down, consumption levels are still above recommendation,” says Malik, adding that the World Health Organization and the 2015 Dietary Advisory Committee are both calling for recommendations for all added sugar to be less than 10 percent of total energy.
Translation? “Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar [per day], and that’s really what you’re getting in just one 12-ounce serving of sugar-sweetened beverages,” Malik says.
In other words, one soda would meet that total daily added-sugar limit. According to Malik, the research makes a strong case for limiting intake of these beverages.