Liquid Candy: The Effects of Sugary Drinks on Kids' Hearts

Sugar-sweetened beverages linked to effects on triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels in children


Kids, put down the Hi-C. Your heart health may depend on it.

A new study from Tufts University found that a higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) was linked to harmful triglyceride levels, while lowering this consumption was linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol — also known as "good" cholesterol.

"HDL is known as 'good' cholesterol because it is a type of fat in the blood that helps remove LDL ('bad') cholesterol from the circulation, preventing fatty build up and the formation of plaques in blood vessels," said lead study author Maria Van Rompay, PhD, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in an interview with dailyRx News.

Triglycerides, Dr. Van Rompay explained, are a type of fat in the blood that makes up the majority of the body's fat tissue. The more calories a person takes in, the more triglycerides. Some studies have also linked high triglyceride levels with an increased risk of heart disease, according to Dr. Van Rompay.

Dr. Van Rompay and team used data from The Daily D Health Study, a vitamin D supplement trial, to look at 613 kids and teens between ages 8 and 15 living in the Boston area.

Of these participants, 68 percent were from low-income households, 47 percent were overweight or obese and 59 percent were non-white.

These kids and teens were asked how many days in the previous week they had consumed SSBs. SSBs were defined as regular sodas, non-100 percent fruit juices and other sugary beverages like sweetened teas.

About 85 percent reported consuming SSBs during the previous week, while 18 percent consumed at least one serving per day.

These kids were monitored for 12 months, and their blood and lipid levels were regularly measured. One group was asked to lower their intake of SSBs by one serving per week, while another group kept their usual habits.

HDL-cholesterol concentrations went up in those who limited SSB intake. Triglycerides went down.

High SSB intake was strongly linked to older age groups, puberty, lower socioeconomic status, lower intake of fruits and vegetables and higher amounts of sedentary time.

No link was found between SSB intake and racial or ethnic categories.

According to Dr. Van Rompay, this study is important because it is one of the few to look at the health effects of SSB intake for kids and teens.

"Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable, as they are often targeted for marketing of SSBs, especially in lower income and racial/ethnic minority neighborhoods," Dr. Van Rompay said. "Dietary habits and heart disease risk factors established early in life track into adulthood and can affect development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease at young ages."

This study was published Sept. 2 in the Journal of Nutrition.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.