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Does soda lead to digestive disorders? Yes, according to a new study

Researchers followed 451,743 people who drank soda for almost 20 years for the study.

Tatelyn Ferguson restocks caffeinated soda at the Cougar Express on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. The Mormon church–run college is breaking a 60-year-old tradition by offering caffeinated sodas on campus.
Tatelyn Ferguson restocks soda at the Cougar Express on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

A new study published in a medical journal suggests drinking soft drinks and soda can lead to a higher risk of dying from digestive disorders.

Researchers followed 451,743 people who drank soda for almost 20 years for the study.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that people who drink more than 16 ounces of sugary soft drinks had a higher risk of death with digestive disorders.

The study found that those who drank the same amount of diet soda had higher risks of dying of cardiovascular disease, too.

The study also found a link between soft drink consumption and increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, there was no link to Alzheimer’s or cancer.

But don’t freak out yet. The soda isn’t the main cause of death. Researchers said it’s impossible to say if the leading cause was the sweetener, the beverage, obesity or other health issues connected with the patients and study subjects.

“This study found that consumption of total, sugar-sweetened, and artificially sweetened soft drinks was positively associated with all-cause deaths in this large European cohort; the results are supportive of public health campaigns aimed at limiting the consumption of soft drinks,” the study’s abstract reads.

Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, told CNN that she found the link between soda and digestive disorders particularly interesting.

“Experimental evidence suggests that high blood sugar and high sugar intake can impair the gut barrier, leading to a ‘leaky gut’ and access to the gut immune system causing intestinal inflammation, alter gut microbiota and increase susceptibility to gut infections,” she said. “These pathways may increase susceptibility to digestive diseases.”

But the recent study joins other research about the dangers of soda consumption. Back in July, a study suggested that drinking soda and juice could lead to increased cancer risk, according to the Deseret News. The study suggested drinking a small glass (so about one-third the size of a can) of a sugary drink led to an 18% increase in cancer risk and a 22% increase in breast cancer risk.

And in February 2019, a separate study found drinking two or more drinks with artificial sweetener led to an increase in clot-based strokes and heart attacks. As the Deseret News reported, the risk jumped 16% for those who had diet soda.

“It’s important for people to know that all beverages — either with sugar or without — are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet,” Danielle Smotkin, a spokesperson for the American Beverage Association, said in a statement. “That said, America’s leading beverage companies are working together to support consumers’ efforts to reduce the sugar they consume from our beverages by providing more choices with less sugar or zero sugar, smaller package sizes and clear calorie information right up front.”

Note: This reporter occasionally drinks soda.