A growing body of research connects sugary drinks with increased risk of diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure and a number of other chronic diseases. But nutrition experts note that the current study doesn't show that sugar-sweetened beverages cause heart disease. Consuming sugary drinks every day may simply indicate less healthy lifestyles that could lead to heart disease.
"To some extent, people who drink more soda are apt to eat less well overall," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. "Too much added sugar in the diet is likely a 'marker' of lower overall diet quality."
Nutrition experts emphasize that making any single ingredient out as the bad guy is a mistake.
"Attempting to blame or pinpoint any one cause for disease risk or overweight, fails to recognize that overall lifestyle is the key to health," said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.
The American Beverage Association, a trade organization representing the beverage industry, disputed the study's findings.
"Drinking sweetened beverages does not cause an increased risk of heart disease – not based on this study or any other study in the available science," the ABA said in a statement, adding that a healthy weight, balanced diet and physical activity are the real keys to reducing the risk of heart disease.