New research has suggested there could be a link between heart failure and drinking just two sweetened soft drinks a day.

A 12-year study by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm found that men who consumed at least two servings of sweetened beverages (defined as sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks, and not including fruit juice) had a 23% higher risk of heart failure compared with those who did not consume sweetened beverages.

The study followed 42,400 Swedish men aged from 45 to 79, and assessed their sweetened beverage consumption using a food frequency questionnaire that defined a beverage serving as 200ml. Sweetened beverage consumption was measured by asking the question: “How many soft drinks or sweetened juice drinks do you drink per day or per week?”

In the conclusion to the study, which has been published in the health journal Heart, researchers said its findings suggested sweetened beverage consumption could contribute to heart failure development and that more studies examining this relationship were required.

An editorial in the journal said further research was needed to better ascertain the association between sweetened beverages and different subtypes of heart failure. It also said it would be “interesting” to understand the differences between sugar-sweetened beverages and artificially-sweetened beverages.

“It is safe to admit that sweetened beverages are usually components of a poor-quality dietary pattern,” it added. “Overall dietary patterns better represent the broader picture of food habits and are more important determinants of disease than any isolated food or beverage.”

This was a view echoed by the British Soft Drinks Association, which said “the persistent focus on a single ingredient or product is neither helpful to consumers nor based on evidence of the importance of a balanced diet overall”.

“Key risk factors for heart failure include high blood pressure, which is a consequence of an overall unhealthy diet and lack of exercise,” added BSDA director general Gavin Partington. “The authors of this limited observational study accept that no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.”