We can add another risk to the negative impacts sugary drinks have on our health: visceral fat. Let’s call it “soda gut,” and tag it on along with the increased risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, asthma, tooth decay and obesity that comes with chugging the sweet stuff.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda daily may lead to more abdominal fat gain over time, according to a study published in the journal Circulation. Belly fat can be particularly insidious, as it wraps around internal organs like the liver and pancreas and affects the function of hormones like insulin. Insulin dysfunction is closely tied to the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
“A lot of prior studies have looked at sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity,” lead author Dr. Caroline S. Fox, a special volunteer with the National Institutes of Health and a former investigator with the Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, told Reuters. “We looked at body fat distribution, in particular change over time.”
Fox and her team used data from about 1,000 adult participants in the Framingham Heart Study who answered food frequency questions about sugar-sweetened beverages and diet soda. At the beginning of the study, they underwent a computed tomography scan to measure quantity and volume of abdominal fat tissue. Six years later, they underwent another scan.
Over that period, visceral fat volume increased by 658 cubic centimeters for non-drinkers of sugary beverages, slightly more for occasional and frequent drinkers, and by 852 cubic centimeters for daily drinkers of sugary beverages.
“That’s probably a very small difference of actual visceral fat,” but it’s enough to make a difference for metabolic risk, according to other studies, she said.