CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Preliminary data shows drinking soda and other sugary beverages could lead to death and that West Virginia leads the nation in consumption.
West Virginia’s average sugary drink consumption rate is 500 twelve-ounce servings per person per year — the highest in the country — according to early findings from a study yet to be released by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
“That was just very shocking for me. That’s such a huge number,” said Marcie Drake, a member of the American Heart Association’s West Virginia Advocacy Committee.
Drake is a heart disease survivor.
The study says adults over the age of 45 who consume large amounts of sugary beverages have a higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who drink fewer sugary drinks.
Those who drink 24 ounces or more of sugary beverages each day, had twice the risk of death from coronary heart disease compared to those in the lowest 25 percent of people who drank less than 1 ounce.
Consuming these beverages also leads to other health conditions like obesity and diabetes, Drake said.
More than one-third of West Virginia adults drink sugary drinks daily, the study said.
Drake said there’s a lot that can be done to address the issue. She suggested implementing a sugary drink tax, encouraging people to choose healthier drink options and educating the public about the risk factors.
Convincing people to shy away from soda can be a challenge, she said.
“That will be hard because of the addiction for one thing of the sugary drinks, as well as just learning different behaviors and choosing different options,” Drake said.
Drake said she hopes the study will teach West Virginians to take better care of themselves.
“I would like to see the huge number of heart disease patients in West Virginia reduced and this may very well be one way it could happen,” she said.