News Release

Monday, July 23, 2007

Framingham Observational Study Notes Greater Incidence of Metabolic Syndrome Among Adults Consuming Soft Drinks

Middle-aged adults who drank more than one soft drink daily, either diet or regular, have a more than 40 percent greater rate of either having or developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk for heart disease, according to new data from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

A person is considered to have metabolic syndrome if he or she has three or more of the following five risk factors: waist circumference greater than or equal to 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men), fasting blood glucose of greater than or equal to 100 mg/dL, triglycerides greater than or equal to 150 mg/dL; blood pressure greater than or equal to 135/85 mmHg, and HDL “good” cholesterol below 40mg/dL for men or below 50 mg/dL for women.

Results from the Framingham Heart Study’s “Soft Drink Consumption and Risk of Developing Cardio-Metabolic Risk Factors and the Metabolic Syndrome in Middle Aged Adults in the Community," will be published online in Circulation on July 23, 2007.

“Other studies have shown that the extra calories and sugar in soft drinks contribute to weight gain, and therefore heart disease risk,” said Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., Director, NHLBI. “This study echoes those findings by extending the link to all soft drinks and the metabolic syndrome.”

While the authors acknowledge that the increased risk of metabolic syndrome associated with high-calorie, high-sugar regular soft drinks might be expected, the similar risk found among those drinking diet sodas is more challenging to understand, they say. It is worth noting that dietary patterns are similar across drinkers of both regular and diet soft drinks.

“Although our study adjusted for lifestyle factors, it is known that people who regularly drink soft drinks — even diet sodas — are also known to eat foods that are higher in calories and fat, and get less physical activity,” said Ramachandran Vasan, M.D, professor of medicine at Boston School of Medicine, and senior author of the paper.

“High soft drink consumption may in fact be a marker for metabolic syndrome risk, but more study is needed,” said Ravi Dhingra, M.D., instructor in medicine, Harvard Medical School, and lead author.

Data was collected in two ways, via physician-administered questionnaire that captured average daily of consumption of 12 ounce soft drinks, and a self-administered food frequency questionnaire that captured the frequency of diet versus regular soft drink intake. Both questionnaires were recorded during Heart Study visits scheduled in 1987-1991 and 1995-1998, and accounted for nearly 9,000 person observations.

“Our results point to the importance of long-term observational studies such as the Framingham Heart Study, which allow us to take a closer look at how aspects of diet are inter-related with health risks,” said Caroline Fox, MD, medical officer, Framingham Heart Study and study co-author.


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To request an interview with Drs. Fox or Dhingra, please call (301) 496-4236. To request an interview with Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, please call, Gina DiGravio, at the Boston Medical Center at (617) 638-8491.

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

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