Sugary Soda Can Increase “Risky” Fat Deposits

February 23, 2012


Can of soda

Most of us have heard that frequently drinking soda is not good for us. Why is that? The usual concerns are weight gain and dental caries. However, a new Danish study released in January found a new reason to be concerned about drinking too much soda.

So, what exactly did the study find?

The study followed 47 people who drank either a liter of cola, low-fat milk, diet cola or water every day for 6 months. Surprisingly, no one gained weight — not even the people who drank cola every day. However, the study did find that even though weight did not change, the way people’s bodies stored fat changed significantly. The cola drinkers had 25% more fat surrounding

their organs (visceral fat) than the other groups, and the amount of fat stored in their liver and muscles doubled. Also, the regular cola drinkers’ triglyceride levels increased by 32%, and their cholesterol levels increased by 11%!  Body fat stores did not change in the people who drank low-fat milk, diet cola or water.

OK great, but why should I care?

Scientists have established a link between too much visceral, liver, and muscle fat and the development of diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Visceral fat is also known as abdominal or belly fat. Visceral fat is located between the organs in your abdomen and is much more harmful to your health than fat that accumulates in other parts of your body. The body just simply does not operate the same, efficient way it should when it has too much of these types of fat deposits. So, even though the cola drinkers did not gain weight, they significantly increased their risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and NAFLD. For more information about these diseases, see the links below.

Having high triglycerides (> 150 mg/dL) and high cholesterol (> 200 mg/dL) can also increase your risk for developing heart disease. Triglycerides, like cholesterol, are a type of lipid found in your blood. Your body coverts any calories it doesn’t use soon after eating into triglycerides. These triglycerides are then stored in your fat cells. Regularly eating more calories than your body can burn, specifically foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and cholesterol, can lead to harmful changes in triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Take-home message

This study provides strong evidence that we should limit our soda consumption or maybe even eliminate soda from our diet. However, more research needs to take place to confirm the findings of this study. Until then, we can proceed with caution when it comes to enjoying these ever-tempting sweet beverages, knowing that indulging in them too often could increase our risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and NAFLD.

Links to learn more about the chronic diseases mentioned about in this blog:

Article co-written by Nikki Estep, UTSPH Dietetic Intern

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