Something else in your diet may be contributing to high levels of fats in your blood besides bacon, cheese and ice cream. A new study found that people who drank beverages with added sugar on a daily basis had higher blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

When your doctor orders a lipid panel as part of your bloodwork, he or she is looking at your cholesterol levels, both good (HDL) and bad (LDL), and triglyceride levels. This blood test is an indicator of how much plaque is clogging the flow in your arteries. If the blood test results are abnormal, the condition is called dyslipidemia, and it suggests a higher risk of heart disease.

Higher HDL levels are protective against heart disease, while higher LDL and triglyceride levels may increase the risk. About half of American adults have abnormal lipid levels, and soda and other sweetened beverages make a big contribution to that.

One way to keep your blood cholesterol and triglycerides at healthier levels may be to avoid or limit sugary drinks.

Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University studied data from nearly 6,000 people who were examined every four years and followed for about 12 years as part of the Framingham Heart Study. The people in the study were separated into groups according to the type and frequency of beverages they consumed. At each exam, changes in the participant’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels were noted.

Drinking more than 12 ounces (one can) of a sugary soda or fruit drink a day was linked to decreasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and increasing triglyceride levels compared to people who rarely drank such beverages. Consuming sugary drinks was not linked to higher LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

This trend was observed in a group of people in their 40s in the study, but they were likely too young to know if they would develop dyslipidemia as they got older.

The use of diet drinks and 100 percent fruit juice was also studied, but no consistent link to adverse changes in blood lipids was seen. However, the researchers still encourage moderation with these beverages.

Drinking a lot of sugary beverages like soft drinks, sports drinks, lemonade or other fruit-flavored beverages may increase the risk for dyslipidemia as we get older. One way to keep your blood cholesterol and triglycerides at healthier levels may be to avoid or limit these drinks.

Alternatives to sugary beverages include flavored sparkling waters, herbal teas or unsweetened coffee flavored with a bit of spice like cinnamon.

Children should not be started on sugary beverages. That first sip of a soft drink is almost guaranteed to get them hooked on the taste.

The easiest and cheapest way to quench your thirst is by drinking plain water. Add a bit of flavor, if necessary, with a splash or squeeze of fruit juice.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.