Soft drinks – whether diet versions or in their regular, sugar-laden form – are associated with a higher risk of dying from any cause, according to new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study titled, Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries, is the largest of its kind to date. This study found even in people of a healthy weight, sugary and diet drinks increase risk of dying from circulatory and digestive disease.

The study found that people who drank two or more of the beverages daily had an increased risk of death compared to those who drank one a month.

“We’ve known for a long time that sugary beverages are bad for us,” said American Heart Association (AHA) president-elect, Mitchell S.V. Elkind M.D., M.S. “They lead to obesity and potentially diabetes and that can lead to cardiovascular disease. In this study, not only the sugar-sweetened beverages, but the artificially sweetened beverages were also associated with an increase in mortality.”

Elkind, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University and attending neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said sugary drink consumption is associated with digestive diseases, while artificially sweetened beverages are linked to circulatory diseases like stroke, heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Every year, 40,000 people living in the United States die from heart problems as a result of consuming too many sugary drinks.

Given that half of adults in the U.S. have a sugary drink daily, the AHA urges consumer to make the switch to healthy beverages, such as water, low-fat and fat-free milk. Water is best to drink most of the time.

Click here to view Dr. Elkind’s commentary on the study.