|While you might feel guilty sipping down the calories in a can of Coca-Cola (KO), a new study from Harvard researchers isn't going to help you justify your soda habit.
Sugary drinks are linked to 180,000 deaths a year around the world, with 25,000 people alone dying in the U.S. from health problems related to sodas and other sweetened beverages, the researchers found.
"We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together," said Harvard School of Public Health postdoctoral research fellow and lead author Gitanjali Singh, according to ABC News.
The assertion will likely be received with welcome ears by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has waged a war against large servings of soda and other sugary drinks.
A judge struck down Bloomberg's citywide ban earlier this month, calling it "arbitrary and capricious." But Bloomberg has vowed to continue his fight, noting, "People are dying every day." That's something the study seems to support, with researchers finding that 1 out of 100 deaths of obese people can be blamed on too many sweetened beverages.
Of the deaths linked to sweetened drinks in 2010, most were from diabetes, with cardiovascular disease and cancer the No. 2 and No. 3 causes, respectively.
One woman's death was linked to her Coca-Cola habit when a New Zealand coroner last month said 31-year old Natasha Harris' sugar and caffeine intake was a "substantial factor in her demise. She drank more than 2.6 gallons of classic Coke each day, according to ABC News.
The American Beverage Association, a trade group, attacked the Harvard research, which hasn't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal but was presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting this week.
The study "is more about sensationalism than science," the group said in a statement. "It does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer -- the real causes of death among the studied subjects."
The statement adds that the researchers "make a huge leap" when linking sweetened beverages to the deaths.