CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - How many sugary drinks do you have a day? If your answer is at least two – you are increasing your risk of dying earlier.
“It starts at just two sugary drinks a day,” said Dr. Sandy Charles, a cardiologist at Novant Health. “Which a lot of us are prone to drinking even more than that.”
A new study from Harvard University has found drinking at least two sugar drinks a day increases your risk of early death by more than 20 percent. It’s an eye-opening study because for the first time - researchers have been able to make a direct correlation between sugar drinks to mortality.
"To have a study that says if you do this explicitly - more than two sugary drinks per day - that will increase your risk of early death by 21 percent. That has to give you pause when you go to reach for that Frappuccino,” Dr. Charles said.
She also says that if you take all of the countries in the world, the U-S ranks number one for the highest consumption of added sugar per person.
Even more telling? Dr. Charles says every American consumes an average of 60 pounds worth of added sugar each year.
It’s why she says a new Harvard University study linking sugary drinks to dying earlier is so important. That’s right: according to Harvard researchers drinking two or more sugary drinks a day increases your risk of dying early by 21 percent.
“Added sugars have a lot of calories and they have no real nutritional value,” she explained. “So you’re not getting the minerals, the vitamins. You’re not getting the fiber you would from natural sugars. And these are the things that help us feel full.”
Natural sugars like the ones in fruits and vegetables. Dr. Charles put the difference between the two this way.
“Instead of having a couple of oranges, if you have a drink that’s packed with way more added sugar, you know you end up drinking a lot more of that because your body is not satiated,” she said.
Which is why she says it’s so important to start making changes – even small ones - now.
“Instead of having sugary drinks in their entirety - mixing them half and half,” suggested Dr. Charles. “Instead of having full sweetened tea, put a little bit of unsweetened tea in there. Sometimes putting fruit juice in water can be helpful to give it some of that flavor. Some people make their ice cubes out of juice so you can put in water and it will give it a little bit of flavor.”
The study also looked at our consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and found that if you swapped out one of those for sugary drink, it actually decreased your risk of an early death. But there’s a catch: you can’t go overboard with those kinds of drinks either.
“If you became excessive about and had four more artificially sweetened drinks than that increased your risks of death, by about 6 percent.,” she said. “And that was seen to happen for women.”
Dr. Charles also noted that the recommendation for adults is to have less than 25 grams of sugar daily which is equal to just six teaspoons of added sugar.
“A really, you know small 12 ounce can of coke - that already has nine teaspoons of sugar in it,” she revealed. “So you already surpassed your quota of recommended sugar with just a simple can of Coke. And that's just in your drink. Forget about your sugary breakfast cereal and all the other things in a day.”
Dr. Charles reiterates that the less processed and added sugar in your diet, the better. “I always say that fresh is best in whatever you’re eating and drinking,” she said. “Because when things are more processed they usually have more added sugar in them so really making a point to just have a healthy, fresh diet and incorporate exercise with that also.”