People who consume sugary drinks are more likely to develop dangerous fat that becomes wrapped around internal organs, new research has warned.
Scientists found that those who drank sugar-sweetened drinks every day put on 30 percent more ”visceral fat” than those who never drank them, according to a six-year study.
Visceral fat becomes wrapped around major internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.
It increases the risk of heart disease and triggers insulin resistance, a major cause of type two diabetes.
Scientists at the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Massachusetts tracked 1,000 middle-aged people for six years.
They asked each participant how often they drank sugar-sweetened and diet drinks, and then, using specialised X-rays, they calculated the amount of visceral fat in each person’s body at the start and end of the project.
According to the results, published in the Circulation medical journal, people who drank sugary or fizzy drinks every day put on nearly a litre in extra visceral fat over the six years.
The team, which included experts from Harvard Medical School and Tufts University in Boston, said the study adds another piece of evidence to the growing body of research suggesting that sweet drinks are harmful to health.
The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition reported last July that more than a third of children’s sugar intake now comes from sweet drinks.
Our message to consumers is to follow the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink.
The team found that participants in the study who drank sugar-sweetened drinks every day increased their visceral fat by an average of 852 millilitres over the six years, 30 percent more than those who never drank sweet drinks.
Those who consumed sweet drinks at least once a week put on 707ml of visceral fat, 7 percent more than those who abstained completely.
The same patterns were not seen for those who drank ‘diet’ drinks containing artificial sweeteners, suggesting that sugar itself plays a role.
The authors stressed that they did not know why sugary drinks were linked to increases in visceral fat, but said they suspect that insulin resistance triggered by added sugar may play a role in fat increase.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Having more visceral fat around the abdomen and organs is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. We know we are consuming more sugar than is recommended and sugar sweetened beverages are one of the biggest sources of sugar in our diet. Diets high in sugar are linked to high calorie intake which increases the risk of weight gain and obesity.”
Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “It’s concerning that the authors blame sugar sweetened drinks when they admit the data on consumption is limited. The evidence clearly shows that heart disease and other obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, are caused by a multitude of factors including overall diet and lifestyle, not by a single beverage or food.
“UK soft drinks manufacturers have led the way in promoting calorie reduction by reformulation, smaller portion sizes and increased promotion of low and no calorie options – reducing sugar intake by 7.5 per cent in recent years and with plans to reduce calories by a further 20 per cent by 2020.”