The more sugary drinks you consume, the more likely you are to die early, according to a new study.

The study, which was published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, links the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to premature death.

Researchers reviewed the deaths of more than 36,000 people whose health had been tracked dating back to 1980 for research purposes. Controlling for physical activity levels and other health indicators, they compared the subjects’ diets, focusing on soft drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks featuring added sugars.

Their findings showed a clear connection, with women who drank two or more sugary beverages a day being 63 per cent more likely to die prematurely than women who had one sugar-sweetened beverage a month or fewer. For men, the difference was 29 per cent.

The researchers further found that every daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages makes people seven per cent more likely to die early in general and 10 per cent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

The risk of death was lowered if people replaced their sugary drinks with beverages sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, but the decrease was slight.

“Diet soda may be used to help frequent consumers of sugary drinks cut back their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice,” lead study author Vasanti Malik of Harvard University said in a statement. Canadian health authorities have issued similar advice, calling water “the beverage of choice” in the recent revamp of Canada’s Food Guide.

Sugary drink consumption has also been associated with weight gain, as well as higher risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. Artificial sweeteners have also been linked to weight gain and diabetes.

The researchers say their work supports efforts of politicians and others looking to limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.