Sweet Drinks May Increase Risk Of Irregular Heartbeat, Study Suggests—But Organic Juices Could Decrease It

Published 1 month ago
By Forbes | Arianna Johnson
Prebiotic sodas have special plant fibers that feed the trillio
(Linnea Bullion for The Washington Post via Getty Images)


Drinking more than 67 ounces of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages a week may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation—an irregular heartbeat—but organic fruit juices without added sugar may decrease this risk, according to a new study.


Participants who drank more than 67 ounces of artificially sweetened drinks a week—equivalent to about one 12-ounce diet soda a day—had an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation by about 20%, and those who drank the same amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had an increased risk of 10%, according to an American Heart Association study published Tuesday.

Atrial fibrillation (or AFib) is the most common form of an irregular heartbeat, which causes the lower and upper chambers of the heart to become unsynced and reduced blood flow, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The study researchers followed almost 202,000 participants—with an age range between 37 and 73 years old—over the course of around 10 years and did genetic blood tests, and they found atrial fibrillation risk was high in people who drank more than 67 ounces of sugar-sweetened drinks regardless of genetic susceptibility.

On the other hand, participants who drank about 34 ounces or less of pure fruit juice each week had an 8% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, the study also found.

Smoking may also increase atrial fibrillation risks, as those who drank more than 67 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages a week and smoked had a 31% higher risk of atrial fibrillation, compared to no significant increase in former smokers or participants who never smoked before.


“Our study’s findings cannot definitively conclude that one beverage poses more health risk than another due to the complexity of our diets and because some people may drink more than one type of beverage,” lead author and researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China Ningjian Wong said in a statement. “However, based on these findings, we recommend that people reduce or even avoid artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages whenever possible.”



3 to 6 million. That’s how many people have atrial fibrillation in the United States, according to a separate AHA study. That number is expected to rise to between 6 and 16 million people by 2050.


Though there isn’t much research into the link between sugary drinks and atrial fibrillation, around 16% of participants who consumed the artificial sweetener aspartame—often sold under the brand name Equal—experience heartbeat changes, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology. There are several risk factors for atrial fibrillation, including obesity, diabetes, heart failure, moderate to heavy alcoholism, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease and ischemic heart disease. However, the biggest factors are high blood pressure—which makes up around one in five cases—and advancing age. Although people of African descent are more susceptible to these risk factors, people of European background are more likely to have atrial fibrillation than any other group, though scientists aren’t sure why, according to a JAMA Network Open studySymptoms of atrial fibrillation include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, a fluttering or thumping sensation in the chest, a fast or irregular heartbeat, weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath and fatigue during exercise. Chest pain or pressure are also symptoms, but considered a medical emergency, according to the AHA.


There have been conflicting studies conducted on the link between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation. The high amounts of caffeine in energy drinks, along with other ingredients like a type of amino acid called taurine that enhances caffeine’s effects, increase atrial fibrillation risk, according to an American Society of Addiction case study. However, a 2019 AHA study found drinking between one and three cups of coffee a day had a slightly lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation compared to drinking four or more, or never drinking coffee. A separate study found that each cup of coffee drank a day reduced the risk of developing arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) by 3%. The American College of Cardiology believes daily consumption of up to 300 milligrams of caffeine should be safe for those with atrial fibrillation.


What To Know About Aspartame: The Sugar Substitute In Diet Coke Declared As A Possible Cancer Risk By WHO (Forbes)