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Sugary beverages are, without a doubt, one of the leading causes of the ever-growing obesity epidemic—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states more than half of Americans drink a sugary beverage, defined as a drink that’s 5 percent or more sugar, every day.
How bad is that for your health? A standard Coca-Cola can comes with a whopping 33 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends men only have 36 grams of added sugar per day, and women 25 grams. So that one “treat” is either putting you over or very close to that threshold. Then add in the fact that sauces, salad dressings, and even sports drinks have even more added sugar and you’re ingesting 200 calories from sugar alone every day.
Artificially-sweetened drinks—those sweetened with Splenda and other non-nutritive sweeteners—were thought to be a healthy alternative to those sugar bombs, but new research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that’s not the case.
For the study, health information for more than 100,000 people was examined to determine how many sugary drinks and artificially-sweetened beverages they consumed per day. During several follow-up sessions, participants were asked if they had any cardiovascular episodes, defined as a stroke, transient ischemic attack, myocardial infarction, acute coronary syndrome, and angioplasty.
Both those who drank sugary beverages, as well as those with artificial sweeteners, had a much higher chance of heart conditions than people who consumed neither.
“Our study suggests artificially sweetened beverages may not be a healthy substitute for sugar drinks, and these data provide additional arguments to fuel the current debate on taxes, labeling and regulation of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages,” Eloi Chazelas, PhD student, lead author of the study and a member of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team, said in a statement.