(CBS News) – Americans consume almost a tenth of their calories by drinking beverages packed with sugar. But, a new study in the journal Circulation reports that men who drink soda or other sugary substances greatly increase their risk of a heart attack.

According to Dr. Walter Willett, a co-author on the study, the typical 12-ounce soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Many people consume 20-ounces of soda in a standard sitting, which is about 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar, a large amount in a little time.

“Continually subjecting our bodies to high amounts of glucose, to high blood sugar levels that trigger large secretions of insulin results in stresses that in the long run show up as high risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Willett told CBS News medical correspondent Dr. John LaPook.

For the study, researchers enrolled 42,833 men and followed their diet, weight, smoking and exercise over 22 years. Men who drank just one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened drink a day had a 20 percent higher risk of heart attacks.

However, other doctors caution that just because there may be a link between sugary drinks and heart attacks does not mean sugar is causing them. Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, said he suspected that the study participants may have been drinking sugary drinks with burgers and fries and other kinds of unhealthy fast foods.

“It’s very likely people who choose to drink sugared soft drinks actually have a variety of health habits that are not heart healthy, and it may well be those health habits that are responsible for the increase in risk,” Nissen said.


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