Drinking soda, even at modest levels, may lead to a higher risk of developing kidney stones.

The copious consumption of sugary drinks already has been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. And now, new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, even at modest levels, could put folks at greater risk for developing yet another health issue, a quite painful one – kidney stones.

“Our study found that the relation between fluid intake and kidney stones may be dependent on the type of beverage consumed,” explains Gary Curhan, MD, ScD, a physician in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH and senior author of this study. “We found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a higher incidence of kidney stones.”

After analyzing the data of nearly 200,000 participants from three large-scale studies – the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the Nurses’ Health Study I, and Nurses’ Health Study II – researchers found that people who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened cola servings per day had a 23 percent higher risk of developing kidney stones than those who consumed less than one serving per week. Similarly, drinking other types of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as fruit punch, were found to carry just as great a risk as soda for developing kidney stones. On the other hand, there also was strong evidence that some beverages, such as coffee, tea and orange juice, were associated with a lower risk of stone formation.

And choosing the right beverage could be particularly significant for patients who already have been treated for kidney stones, as these people are often advised to drink more fluids as a way to prevent future stone formation.

As Pietro Manuel Ferraro, MD, a physician at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome and corresponding author of this study, explains:  “Although higher total fluid intake reduces the risk of stone formation, this information about individual beverages may be useful for general practitioners seeking to implement strategies to reduce stone formation in their patients.”

The full study was published in the May 15, 2013 online edition of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

- Chris P., Jessica M.

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