Case for the prosecution
Sodas, candy bars and sweet breakfast cereals are entwined in modern life — along with a lot of other questionable choices and bad habits. It's hard to know exactly what all of that sugar is doing to our bodies, but scientists are making headway. Some not-so-sweet findings:
• In an unusual — and revealing — experiment from 2011, researchers at UC Davis fed 48 young adults a sugary but carefully controlled diet. In just two weeks, subjects who got 25% of their calories from either fructose or high-fructose corn syrup saw a jump in their cholesterol levels. A similar study from 2008 found that sugary drinks decreased insulin sensitivity and increased visceral fat in overweight subjects.
A study that followed more than 42,000 men for 22 years, published in March, found a correlation between sugary drink consumption and heart attacks — men who drank a single 12-ounce sugary soda every day were about 20% more likely to have a heart attack during the study period. It's not clear if the extra sugar was directly to blame, though, since people who drink sodas may do other things that put them at risk.
A 2011 study of nearly 2,700 people found a correlation between sugary beverages and blood pressure. Specifically, a daily 12-ounce serving seemed to raise blood pressure by one or two points.
A 2010 Spanish study of 74 healthy adult men found that consuming 200 grams of fructose a day for two weeks was enough to temporarily raise blood levels of insulin and triglycerides and elevate blood pressure.
The Nurse's Health Study II — which tracked more than 91,000 women for eight years — found that women who drank a sugary soft drink every day were 80% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than women who hardly ever had a sugary drink. The 2004 report also found that women who started drinking more soft drinks during the study tended to put on the most weight.
An eight-year government study of more than 6,100 adults found that added sugar seemed to raise the risk of cholesterol trouble. Notably, the 2010 report found that people with the sweetest diets were 11/2 to 3 times more likely than people who ate relatively little sugar to have low levels of good HDL cholesterol.