In a bid to assess whether there might be a link between heightened heart failure risk and sweetened drink consumption, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden tracked the health of 42,400 men residing in two counties of Sweden between 1998 and 2010 using national registry data.
All the men, who were aged between 45 and 79 when they entered the study, had been born between 1918 and 1952.
They were asked to record their average consumption of 96 food and drink items over the preceding year in a food frequency questionnaire, to include daily and weekly standard servings (200 ml or one glass) of sweetened drinks.
No distinction was made between drinks sweetened with sugar, fructose/glucose, or artificial sweetener; neither tea/coffee nor fruit juice were included in the study.
During the monitoring period, which averaged 12 years, 3,604 new cases of heart failure were diagnosed, and 509 people died of their condition.
After taking account of other potentially influential factors, the data analysis indicated that consumption of at least two daily servings of sweetened drinks was associated with a 23 per cent heightened risk of developing heart failure compared with no consumption.
To try and exclude reverse causation – whereby those with undiagnosed heart failure drank more sweetened beverages, so inflating the findings – the researchers carried out a further analysis to exclude all those diagnosed with heart failure during the first five years of the monitoring period.
This showed similar results, increasing the associated heightened risk to 25 per cent. This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and as the study only involved older white men, the findings may not be applicable to younger age groups, women, or certain ethnicities, the researchers said. The study was published in the journal Heart.