Research News

Reducing sugary drink intake is linked to raised HDL cholesterol levels

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 08 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4738
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

Children who reduce their consumption of sugar sweetened drinks by just one serving a week see improvements in their high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition has found.1

The US study used data from a multiethnic sample of 613 children aged 8 to 15 who were enrolled in a randomised double blind vitamin D supplementation trial. They self reported their intake of sugar sweetened beverages and had their fasting blood lipid concentrations measured at baseline.

Two thirds of the children were from low socioeconomic status households, almost half were overweight or obese, and 59% were from non-white or Caucasian ethnic groups. The researchers followed 380 of the children for 12 months.

At the start of the study 85% of the schoolchildren reported consuming sugar sweetened drinks during the previous week, including 18% who consumed seven or more servings a week. Greater intake of sugar sweetened drinks was associated with lower socioeconomic status, a lower intake of fruit and vegetables, and more sedentary time.

Those who drank more sugar sweetened drinks at the start of the study tended to have higher plasma triglyceride levels (P=0.03) after accounting for demographic and behavioural factors, body mass index, total calories, and measures of diet quality. No association was seen between intake of sweetened drinks and HDL cholesterol at baseline.

Over the 12 month follow-up period the mean intake of sweetened drinks was not associated with lipid changes. However, a greater increase in plasma HDL cholesterol concentration was seen in children who decreased their intake by one or more servings a week (4.5 ± 0.8 mg/dL) than in children whose intake stayed the same (2.0 ± 0.8 mg/dL) or increased (1.5 ± 0.8 mg/dL; P=0.02).

One limitation of the study was its reliance on self reporting. The researchers noted that the absence of an association between mean intake of sweetened drinks and lipid changes over 12 months may be due to measurement error—for example, under-reporting of intake, especially by children who were overweight or obese.

Maria Van Rompay, study author and a research associate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, said, “A clustering of risk factors including high triglycerides, low HDL [cholesterol], insulin resistance, and obesity, especially if begun in childhood, puts one at higher risk for future cardiovascular disease.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4738


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