The test lasted six months and involved volunteers drinking one litre per day of four different drinks: Coca-Cola, skimmed milk, light cola (zero energy) and water. After the trial period it was discovered that the fat content in the liver and muscle tissue of the people who had been drinking Coca-Cola had more than doubled in comparison with the people who had been drinking the three other drinks. The amount of fat in the abdominal cavity and the fat content in the blood (cholesterol and triglyceride) also increased in the Coca-Cola group.
The results of the six-month test has just been published in the highly respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And the conclusions constitute a serious warning against drinking sucrose-sweetened beverages on a daily basis. The test was carried out by a team of researchers led by Bjørn Richelsen, a professor of clinical nutrition at Aarhus University.
A connection has already been discovered between drinking sucrose-sweetened beverages and the development of obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease; but previous studies have failed to demonstrate a direct link between such drinks and these health problems.
“Our results show that there is a direct connection between the daily ingestion of one litre of sucrose-sweetened beverages and the fat content in the liver, muscles and abdominal cavity. The fat content of the blood increases as well, and cholesterol levels rise. All these changes are known to increase the risk of developing diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases,” says Professor Bjørn Richelsen from Aarhus University.
“Children and young people are believed to represent a high-risk group in terms of the negative effect of sucrose-sweetened beverages; and diabetes and cardio-vascular disease aren’t the only things to threaten young people who have a high consumption of these drinks. The incidence of the liver disease known as ‘non-alcoholic fatty liver’ is increasing in young people, and a high consumption of soft drinks may also be a contributory factor to this problem as well,” says Bjørn Richelsen.
The trial also demonstrated that even though skimmed milk has the same energy content as sucrose-sweetened beverages, milk had no negative effects on the fat content of the liver, muscles and abdominal cavity – or on the fat content in the blood. Cola Light (sweetened with aspartame) had almost the same effect as water.
So the conclusion is clear: drinking one litre of sucrose-sweetened beverages every day for six months increases the risk of contracting diabetes and cardio-vascular disease, so the consumption of these drinks should be kept to a minimum. When considering the results of this study, it’s worth remembering that the average consumption of sucrose-sweetened beverages among young men in the US is 1.8 litres a day, and that average consumption for the American population as a whole is 0.5 litres a day.
By Lise Arnfred
Aarhus University, Faculty of Health Sciences