Sugary drinks put you at greater risk of developing dangerous levels of fat around vital organs, researchers have discovered.
Experts found that those who drank them every day put on 30 per cent more 'visceral fat' than those who did not.
The fat occurs naturally in the body and is stored around major internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines.
But high levels of the substance has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Scientists at the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Massachusetts tracked 1,000 middle-aged subjects for six years, measuring the amount of visceral fat at the start and the end.
The results, published yesterday, showed that those who drank sugary or fizzy drinks every day gained almost a litre of extra visceral fat over the period.
The team, who included experts from Harvard Medical School, said the study adds another piece of evidence to the growing body of research suggesting that sweet drinks are harmful to health. The findings come as the UK Government comes under pressure to impose a tax on drinks that contain added sugar.
David Cameron has so far resisted the call from doctors and campaigners such as Jamie Oliver to introduce a levy, but is now said to be considering the measure in his childhood obesity strategy next month.
The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition has said that more than a third of children's sugar intake now comes from sweet drinks.
NHS England boss Simon Stevens warned that there was "absolutely no reason" for youngsters to have sugary drinks at all. Dr Caroline Fox, who led the US study, said:
"There is evidence linking sugar-sweetened beverages with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
"Our message to consumers is to follow the current dietary guidelines and to be mindful of how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink." Writing in the medical journal Circulation, researchers found that those who had sugar-sweetened drinks every day increased their visceral fat by an average of 852ml over the six years - 30 per cent more than those who never drank them.
Those who had sweet drinks at least once a week put on 707ml of visceral fat - 7 per cent more than those who abstained completely. The same pattern was not seen in "diet" drinks containing artificial sweeteners, suggesting that sugar itself plays a role.
The authors stressed that they did not know why sugary drinks were linked to a rise in visceral fat, but suggest insulin resistance triggered by added sugar may play a role.
Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: "It's concerning that the authors blame sugar-sweetened drinks when they admit the data on consumption is limited.
"The evidence clearly shows that heart disease and other obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, are caused by a multitude of factors including overall diet and lifestyle, not by a single beverage or food."
- Daily Mail