The researchers found that drinking one to four sugary drinks per month was linked with a 1% increased risk of death from any cause; two to six per week with a 6% increase; one to two per day with a 14% increase; and two or more per day with a 21% increase.
"Here in the U.S., about half of the population consumes at least one sugar sweetened beverage per day", lead study author Vasanti Malik, a nutrition researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said by email.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has always been urging people to replace sugary and diet drinks with plain, carbonated or unsweetened flavored water.
Malik and the other researchers utilized data amassed from nearly 38,000 American men in a study that started in 1986 and from over 80,000 American women in a study that began in 1976. While SSB consumption had been dropping in the US over the past decade, there's been an increase in consumption among USA adults in recent years.
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As for men, the increase in risk was 29 percent.
The risk of death was lowered if people replaced their sugary drinks with beverages sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, but the decrease was slight.
In the current study, the risk associated with sugary drinks rose with higher consumption for men and women.
While an occasional sugary drink is unlikely to do much harm, Australians consume them at a level high above "occasional". Researchers accounted for other dietary factors, physical activity and obesity, so that any effect measured could be independently linked with sugar-sweetened beverages.
Even so, the results add to the mounting evidence that sugary beverages like sodas and sports drinks are harmful, said Nicola McKeown, a researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University who wasn't involved in the study.
A few weeks ago, we were the bearers of bad news when we announced that drinking two or more cans of any artificially sweetened drink each day could significantly increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. "These beverages deliver no health benefits".