Sugar sweetened drinks add additional belly fat over time.
Researchers looked at about 1,000 people’s answers to a questionnaire about their food intake and sugar-sweetened or diet beverage consumption and found those with a preference to the sugary drinks gained more abdominal fat than their counterparts.
According to Fox News, the lead author of the study, Dr. Caroline S. Fox, said their new study differed from previous studies of sugar sweetened beverages and obesity in that they focused on the distribution of the body fat and in particular the changes over a period of time.
The study revealed that all the participants in the study had a gain in visceral fat, the fat around the midsection that surrounds internal organs such as the liver and pancreas, but sugary beverages led to a greater increase, which is problematic.
Visceral fat gain disrupts the function of insulin, and has been associated with type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of heart disease.
About a third of the participants in the study said they did not consume sugar-sweetened beverages, and one fifth said they drank them only occasionally. Thirteen percent reported drinking them everyday, while the largest group at 35 percent said they consumed the beverages frequently.
Each participant underwent a scan to measure quantity and volume of abdominal fat at the beginning of the study, and again after a period of six years. Visceral fat increased by 658 cubic centimeters for the non-sugar drinkers, while the daily consumers logged an increase of 852 cubic centimeters. That results in about 1.8 pounds of additional abdominal fat.
Dr. Fox admitted it was not a lot of fat, but it could make a difference in metabolic risk, based on evidence from other studies. She also noted diet drinks were not linked to an increase in visceral fat, and added the study was not clear if a decrease in sugary drink intake would lead to a decrease visceral fat over time.
Experts say water and milk are the healthiest choices for beverages, but diet sodas may help some consumers lower their sugar and calorie intake, but monitoring the other foods you consume is necessary as well.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake at 100 calories per day for women and 150 for men.