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Soft Drinks, Even Diet Drinks, Linked to Heart Risks

Could drinking a soda increase your risk for heart disease? A new study finds drinking more than a third of a liter, or one and a half cups per day, may be linked to heart disease and that drinking diet soda may not lower the risk. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

People around the world drink about 180 billion liters of soda a year. That translates to more than 29 liters per person. Experts say the amount of carbonated soft drinks we consume is growing. New research from the American Heart Association finds that drinking soda, even diet soda, may significantly increase your risk for heart disease. Dr. Ramachandran Vasan led the study. "Drinking just one or more sodas a day may not be as innocuous as people think."

In a large study of 9,000 people, doctors discovered that those who drank one or more sodas a day had a 30% increased risk for obesity, a 25% increase in the risk for abnormal blood sugar levels, and a 32% increase in the odds of having low levels of good cholesterol.

All of these factors increase the risk for heart disease. And there was no difference in the results for those who drank diet soda over regular soda...something that surprised even the researchers.

Critics of the study say diet soda may not be the cause of increased risk of heart disease. Connie Diekman is president of the American Dietetic Association. "It does not conclusively say that this will cause that."

In other words, it could be that unhealthy people like soda. Dr. Vasan found those who drink soda generally tend to have greater caloric intake. They eat more saturated fat and transfats. They also eat less fiber and exercise less. Diet soda drinkers may also share this unhealthy lifestyle. Dr. Vasan agrees that the link he found between heart disease risk and diet soda needs additional study.