Drinking two or more soft drinks or other sweet beverages a day increases the risk of heart disease for women, a new study indicates.
The type of drink doesn't matter -- be it soda, sweet tea or coffee drinks that look like desserts -- if it's sweet, it may be harmful to your heart, researchers from the University of Oklahoma reported at the American Heart Association's annual meeting.
The new study followed more than 4,000 people between 45 and 84 who were already participating in a multiethnic study of atherosclerosis. Women who drank two or more sugary beverages were four times more likely to develop high levels of triglycerides than women who drank less, the study found.
Interestingly, men who drank two or more sugary drinks did not have an increased risk of triglyceride development. High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, increase a person's risk of heart disease.
Many women in the study saw expanding waistlines with increased consumption of sweet drinks, even if they didn't gain weight.
"These drinks may be influencing heart disease risk factors even if people don't gain weight," said Christina Shay, the study's lead author and assistant professor of epidemiology.
"There are some calories that come like a nuclear attack," said Dr.
Stephanie Coulter, a director of women's and vascular health at Texas Heart Institute. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, slowly releases sugar into the bloodstream. "But have a sugar drink, and all the sugar comes rushing into the system," Dr. Coulter added.
And it's that belly fat -- when fat stores up around the organs at the center of the body -- that produces hormones "that make us more likely to get diabetes, high blood pressure and higher triglycerides," said Dr. Holly Anderson of the Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.
Heart disease is the nation's number one killer, with an estimated 26.8 million Americans affected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.