Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Sipping Too Many Soft Drinks?

What do you make of the study that showed that drinking only a single soda - diet or regular - daily could cause metabolic syndrome and increase the risk of heart disease?

Answer (Published 3/27/2008)

The study you refer to found an association between metabolic syndrome and soft drink consumption - it didn't identify soda as the cause of the syndrome. The study was an analysis of findings from the famous Framingham Heart Study that has been going on since 1948 in Framingham, Mass. In this particular phase, a group of participants were followed from 1987 to 1995. They had physical exams, filled out food frequency questionnaires and about every four years had blood tests to track their serum cholesterol and triglycerides and their blood glucose levels. At the outset, 6,039 of the 8,997 participants were free of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that can quadruple the chances of having a heart attack over the next 10 years. Having any three of the risk factors below constitutes having metabolic syndrome:

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness for Your Healthy Body - It's the journey not the destination. Make each day count, with an outlook that is both serene and inspired. Dr. Weil's new website,, has everything you need to get on the path to optimal well-being including recipes, checklists and exclusive tools to track your walking. Learn more, start your 10-day free trial now.
  • Waist circumference: at least 35 inches for women and at least 40 inches for men.
  • Fasting blood glucose at least 100 mg/dL
  • Serum triglycerides at least 150 mg/dL
  • Blood pressure at least 135/85mmHg
  • HDL ("good") cholesterol lower than 40 mg/dL for men or 50 mg/dL for women

About 35 percent of the Framingham participants reported to the physicians who examined them that they drank at least one 12 ounce soda per day, while 22 percent noted on their food questionnaires that they averaged at least one soft drink daily. After adjusting for age, gender, physical activity, smoking, intake of fat and total calories and other dietary factors, the researchers found that the rate of metabolic syndrome was 48 percent higher among participants who drank at least one soft drink daily (diet or regular) than among those who didn't report drinking sodas, regardless of whether the sodas were regular or diet, caffeinated or decaf.

The question now is whether the sodas themselves contribute to metabolic syndrome risk or whether drinking them goes along with other dietary or lifestyle habits that increase the risk. Earlier Framingham findings have shown that drinking sodas contributes to obesity and insulin resistance among children and to high blood pressure among adults.

Based on what we know now, you've got to do more than just avoid drinking sodas to reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. You've got to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, watch your intake of calories, make sure to exercise regularly, limit your salt intake and practice portion control. But the evidence that something in the soft drinks (whether it be the high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, caramel coloring or something else) may contribute to metabolic syndrome certainly makes me suspicious of them. I drank soda when I was growing up and through my university years. I never drink it now and haven't done so in a long time.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here