"This sheds light on the linear connection between sugary drink consumption and deaths," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist and director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She was not involved in the study.
She agreed that it's difficult to blame deaths on high-sugar drinks alone. But she also said the findings highlight one important, and simple, move that people can make to improve their diets.
"Make this one change, to stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages," Steinbaum said. "Is it the only fix? Certainly not." But, she added, replacing even one sugary drink a day with water can cut a significant amount of calories.
Steinbaum also noted that sodas are not the only culprit. "Often, these fruit juices that people think are healthy are loaded with sugar," she said.
One of the big concerns in the sugary-drink "war" is that many children and teenagers are downing huge amounts of liquid calories. Because this study focused on deaths from chronic diseases, Singh said it says nothing about the potential health effects on kids across the globe.
"We need research to figure out how high their consumption of sugary drinks really is," Singh said, "and to see how it affects their health."
The ABA countered that it is daily caloric intake, not high-calorie beverages, that really matters. "When it comes to risk for heart disease, there is nothing unique about the calories from added sugars, or sugar-sweetened beverages for that matter," the group said.
Study results presented at medical meetings are generally considered preliminary until they undergo peer review to be published in a journal.
The American Heart Association has advice on cutting sugar.
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