Background: The consumption of sucrose-sweetened soft drinks (SSSDs) has been associated with obesity, the metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disorders in observational and short-term intervention studies. Too few long-term intervention studies in humans have examined the effects of soft drinks.
Objective: We compared the effects of SSSDs with those of isocaloric milk and a noncaloric soft drink on changes in total fat mass and ectopic fat deposition (in liver and muscle tissue).
Design: Overweight subjects (n = 47) were randomly assigned to 4 different test drinks (1 L/d for 6 mo): SSSD (regular cola), isocaloric semiskim milk, aspartame-sweetened diet cola, and water. The amount of intrahepatic fat and intramyocellular fat was measured with 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Other endpoints were fat mass, fat distribution (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and magnetic resonance imaging), and metabolic risk factors.
Results: The relative changes between baseline and the end of 6-mo intervention were significantly higher in the regular cola group than in the 3 other groups for liver fat (132–143%, sex-adjusted mean; P < 0.01), skeletal muscle fat (117–221%;P < 0.05), visceral fat (24–31%; P < 0.05), blood triglycerides (32%; P < 0.01), and total cholesterol (11%; P < 0.01). Total fat mass was not significantly different between the 4 beverage groups. Milk and diet cola reduced systolic blood pressure by 10–15% compared with regular cola (P < 0.05). Otherwise, diet cola had effects similar to those of water.
Conclusion: Daily intake of sucrose-sweetened soft drinks (SSSDs) for 6 mo increases ectopic fat accumulation and lipids compared with milk, diet cola, and water. Thus, daily intake of SSSDs is likely to enhance the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.