Don’t drink sugar-sweetened beverages thinking you can sweat it out later. Researchers in a new study have found that exercise can protect you from cardiovascular diseases to an extent but cannot eliminate the adverse effects of sugar-sweetened beverages.

“Physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with sugar-sweetened beverages by half, but it does not fully eliminate it,” said researcher Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier from the Universit√© Laval’s Faculty of Pharmacy in Quebec, Canada.

Sugary drinks such as sodas and sweetened beverages add a lot of extra sugar to the American diet. These additional calories from frequent use are often linked to weight gain, obesity, and health problems such as diabetes, heart issues, kidney diseases, liver problems, tooth decay, arthritis, and gout.

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that even if a person meets the recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity, it may not be sufficient to guard them against the cardiovascular risk associated with sugary drinks.

“The marketing strategies for these drinks often show active people drinking these beverages. It suggests that sugary drink consumption has no negative effects on health if you’re physically active. Our research aimed to assess this hypothesis” said Drouin-Chartier.

The research team used two cohorts totaling around 100,000 adults who were followed up for about 30 years. Upon analysis, they found that regardless of physical activity levels, those who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages more than twice a week had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

The twice-a-week consumption, which is relatively low frequency, was still significantly associated with cardiovascular disease risk. The researchers noted that with daily consumption, the risk was even higher.

The study looked at sugar-sweetened drinks, which include soft and fizzy drinks (with or without caffeine), lemonade, and fruit cocktails. Although the study did not specifically focus on energy drinks, it is important to note that they usually also contain added sugars.

“For artificially sweetened drinks, often presented as an alternative solution to sugar-sweetened beverages, their consumption was not associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases,” the news release stated.

“Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with diet drinks is good, because it reduces the amount of sugar. But the best drink option remains water,” Drouin-Chartier said.

“Our findings provide further support for public health recommendations and policies to limit people’s intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as to encourage people to meet and maintain adequate physical activity levels,” added lead author Lorena Pacheco.

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