HealthDay News — Men that frequently drink soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages may have a higher risk for heart attack and coronary heart disease, results of an observational study suggest.

Those who consumed the most sugary beverages — an average of 6.5 per week were 20% more likely to have a myocardial infarction (MI) than those who never drank them (RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.33), Frank Hu, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues, reported in Circulation.

A similar association was not observed for artificially sweetened diet beverages, the researchers noted.

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“These results, as well as those from other observational studies and trials, support recommendations to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in order to prevent cardiovascular disease,” Hu and colleagues wrote.

Previous studies have linked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to weight-gain and type 2 diabetes, but few have studied the relationship between soda and coronary heart disease. The current analyses involved 42,883 mostly white men aged 40 to 75 years, who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up study. Those with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline were excluded. Findings were based on self-reported intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and blood samples from 18,225 participants.

During 22 years of follow-up, there were 3,683 cases of coronary heart disease defined as fatal and nonfatal MI. Increased risk for MI among those who consumed the most sugary beverages remained significant even after adjusting for a number of potentially confounding factors, including age, smoking, physical activity, alcohol, multivitamins, family history, diet quality, energy intake, BMI, pre-enrollment weight change and dieting.

The associations were modified only slightly by self-reported high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high BP and diagnosed type 2 diabetes. Sugar-sweetened beverages were also associated with adverse changes in lipids, inflammatory factors and leptin.

“This suggests that sugar-sweetened beverages may impact on coronary heart disease risk above and beyond traditional risk factors,” the researchers wrote.

Study limitations include the potential for error in measuring self-reported dietary intake, inability to generalize the findings beyond the study population and the possibility of unmeasured and residual confounding.

De Koning L et al. Circulation. 2012; doi: 10.1161/ CIRCULATIONAHA.111.067017.