DALLAS, Texas (WPVI) -- Sugary drinks may bring on the belly fat, even if you don't gain weight.
A study from the American Heart Association found that people who drank a sugar-sweetened beverage every day gained 30% more abdominal fat over 6 years.
However, they didn't gain any weight overall.
So-called visceral fat in the midsection wraps around internal organs like the liver and pancreas and affects the function of hormones like insulin.
Insulin dysfunction, and becoming resistant to insulin, is closely tied to type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.
"A lot of prior studies have looked at sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity," said lead author Dr. Caroline S. Fox.
"We looked at body fat distribution, in particular change over time."
Fox, a former investigator with the Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is currently a special volunteer with the National Institutes of Health.
She and her colleagues found that all participants tended to gain visceral fat over time, but those who drank sugary beverages daily gained more.
Daily drinkers gained an average of nearly 2 pounds of abdominal fat.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 100 calories per day of added sugars, such as those found in sweetened beverages, for most women, and 150 calories per day for most men.
Sugar-sweetened beverages like regular soda and fruit punch have added sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.
Most participants said they drank a mixture of sugary beverages and diet soda.
The study was reported in the A-H-A journal Circulation.
Last year, researchers connected drinking diet soda to a rise in belly fat