May 13 (UPI) -- Women who drink one or more sugary beverages a day are more than 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, a study published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Heart Association found.
Compared to women who never consume sugary drinks -- like soft drinks, sweetened bottled waters, or teas and fruit drinks with added sugar -- those who had one or more per day were at 26 percent higher risk for a revascularization procedure or angioplasty to open clogged arteries.
They also were at 21 percent higher risk of suffering a stroke, the authors observed.
"Sugar may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in several ways," study co-author Dr. Cheryl Anderson, professor and interim chair of Family and Public Health at University of California-San Diego, said in a press release.
"It raises glucose levels and insulin concentrations in the blood, which may increase appetite and lead to obesity, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease," she added.
The findings are based on an analysis of data from the California Teacher's Study, which began in 1995 and includes more than 106,000 women. On average, study participants are 52 years of age, and none of those included in the analysis had a history of heart disease, stroke or diabetes when they enrolled.
Study participants were asked to report how much and what they drank on a food questionnaire. Statewide inpatient hospitalization records were used to determine whether they had experienced a heart attack, stroke or surgery to open clogged arteries.
In general, Anderson and her colleagues observed that women who reported the highest sugar-sweetened beverage intake were younger, more likely to be current smokers, obese and less likely to eat healthy foods. In addition, there were differences in the types of beverages women consumed.
Overall, drinking one or more sugar-added fruit drinks daily was associated with a 42 percent greater likelihood of having heart disease. Meanwhile, drinking soft drinks, such as soda daily, led to a 23 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease overall compared to those who rarely or never drank sugary beverages, the authors found.
For women, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 100 calories a day -- or roughly 6 teaspoons of sugar. Men can safely add up to 150 calories a day -- or roughly 9 teaspoons.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugars in the American diet. For example, a typical 12-ounce can of regular soda has 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of sugar, according to the AHA.
"Too much sugar in the blood is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, insulin resistance, unhealthy cholesterol profiles and type 2 diabetes, conditions that are strongly linked to the development of atherosclerosis, the slow narrowing of the arteries that underlies most cardiovascular disease," said Anderson, who also is chair of the AHA's Nutrition Committee.