Drinking sugary beverages is associated with a slightly increased risk for early death, a new study has found.

Researchers used data from two large continuing health studies begun in the 1980s that include more than 118,000 men and women. Among many other health, behavioral and diet characteristics, the researchers collected data about their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including noncarbonated fruit punches, lemonades and other sugary fruit drinks.

Over about 30 years, there were 36,436 deaths. The more sugar-sweetened drinks people consumed, the higher their risk for death. After controlling for many health, behavioral and dietary characteristics, the researchers found that each additional daily 12-ounce serving of sugary drinks was associated with a 7 percent increased risk for death from any cause, a 5 percent increased risk for cancer death, and a 10 percent increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease. The study appears in the journal Circulation.

“The optimal intake of these drinks is zero,” said the lead author, Vasanti S. Malik, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “They have no health benefits.”

Replacing sugary soda with diet soda, she said, would reduce the risk, but the long-term effect of diet drinks is unknown. Still, she said, “Diet drinks are a reasonable alternative, with the ultimate goal of switching to water.”