Sugary Soda Ups Risky Fat Deposits

January 13, 2012

By Kerry Grens

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jan 12 - Drinking a liter of regular cola every day increases the amount of fat in the liver, muscles and viscera, according to a new Danish study.

"This study suggests that the adverse effects of sugary beverages go beyond just weight gain or fat gain. It's the gaining of the wrong fat in the wrong places," said Dr. Frank Hu from the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in this study.

The researchers, led by Dr. Bjørn Richelsen at Aarhus University Hospital, asked 47 overweight or obese people to drink either a liter of water, milk, diet cola or regular cola each day for six months.

Dr. Richelsen said his team chose to study this group because they expected overweight or obese people to be more sensitive to dietary changes than people of normal weight.

At the end of the study the regular cola drinkers ended up with 25% more visceral fat, and just about doubled the amount of fat in the liver and muscle.

Such increases "are in most studies associated with an enhanced risk for developing the metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes...cardiovascular diseases, and non-alcoholic liver diseases," Dr. Richelsen told Reuters Health by email.

"This study provides another piece of evidence to support the recommendations for the reduction of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption," Dr. Hu told Reuters Health.

The American Heart Association recommends drinking no more than about three cans of soda a week, while young men far exceed that, with about two cans a day on average (see Reuters Health report of August 31, 2011).

The current study, published online December 28 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, did not find that the cola drinkers gained more weight than the other groups.

Dr. Richelsen said it's possible that the people reduced the amount of calories they ate or drank to compensate for the extra calories in the soda.

The researchers also point out in their study that the sugar in soda from Denmark is different from most sodas in the United States.

In Europe, the sweetener is sucrose, as opposed to the high fructose corn syrup used in the U.S.

"It is quite convincing from the scientific literature that it is the fructose part of the sugar molecule...that is the primary culprit in inducing fat synthesis in the liver," Dr. Richelsen said.

Given that there is extra fructose in high fructose corn syrup, Dr. Richelsen said, soda from the U.S. could lead to more pronounced problems with fat gain.


Am J Clin Nutr 2011.


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