Sugary drinks consumption is linked to higher levels of visceral fat, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), indicates that the kind of fat generated by sugary drink consumption is particularly harmful. Visceral fat, sometimes known as “deep fat,” is stored around the abdominal cavity, and often develops around organs. Visceral fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Sugary drinks and visceral fat: how was the study conducted?
The study involved 1,003 participants, with an average age of 45. Each participant underwent computed tomography at the beginning and end of the six-year follow-up period. The scans measured changes in visceral fat. Each participant reported on their diet using food questionnaires, which focused on consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and diet versions.
“Our message to consumers is to follow the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink,” said Dr. Caroline Fox, a special volunteer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “To policymakers, this study adds another piece of evidence to the growing body of research suggesting sugar-sweetened beverages may be harmful to our health.”
Based on their survey responses, the participants were divided into categories: non-drinkers of sugar-sweetened beverages, occasional drinkers (defined as less than once weekly), frequent drinkers (defined as once weekly but less than once daily) and daily drinkers.
Participants who drank sugar-sweetened beverages on a daily basis experienced an 852cm3 increase in visceral fat, compared to 658cm3 in the non-drinker group, 649cm3 in the occasional drinkers group and 707cm3 in the frequent drinkers group. This was after the researchers made adjustments for factors including age, gender, physical activity and body mass index (BMI).
There was no link between consumption of diet sodas and visceral fat levels.
The study was unable to explain the mechanisms behind the findings; further studies may be able to elucidate this.
The findings are published in the Circulatio, the journal of the American Heart Association.

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