Diet drinks associated with an increased risk of diabetes in women

by Barbara Hewitt on February 11, 2013

Diet drinks associated with an increased risk of diabetes in women

A high intake of sugary drinks is associated with a significant increase to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, French researchers have found. They have also found that the risk is even greater for ‘diet’ and ‘light’ versions of these kinds of beverages and are calling for further studies into the links.

The researchers, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon and Gustave Roussy from the French government body L’Institut nationale de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM), the country’s National Institute for Health and Medical Research, compared the results of drinking diet drinks principally sweetened with aspartame with those sweetened with sugar. The study involved 66,188 women born between 1925 and 1950 who regularly completed questionnaires every two or three years revealing their drinking habits.

Women who drank artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) drank more than women whose preferred drink was sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). The comparative figures were 2.8 glasses of ASBs per week as against 1.6 glasses of SSBs per week. When the authors compared groups within the sample of women reporting drinking similar amounts of SSBs and ASBs respectively, the results showed a 15% higher risk of diabetes amongst ASB drinkers consuming 500ml per week and a 59% higher risk of diabetes for those who reported drinking 1.5 litres per week.

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The researchers also looked at women who abstained from SSBs and ASBs and drank only fruit juice. In the latter category, drinking fruit juice showed no association with developing diabetes. The research showed that, contrary to popular belief, the risk of diabetes may be higher amongst those consuming diet drinks as opposed to sugar sweetened ones. The researchers say further studies are required to corroborate their results.

It is generally accepted, the researchers say, that the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is linked to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. They highlight that that the effect of light or diet beverages on cardiometabolic diseases is less well known. The researchers pointed out that in terms of calorie intake these kinds of drinks do not replace solid foods because drinking sugary drinks does not satiate the appetite. The calories from sugary drinks are simply added to the calorie intake from solid foods. Also the sugars in soft drinks cause an insulin spike and if repeated such spikes can cause insulin resistance.

They also believed that aspartame, one of the main sweeteners used in ASBs, induces an increase in blood sugar levels, and thus an increase in insulin levels, comparable to that produced by sucrose. There is also a theory that drinking a lot of drinks sweetened with ASBs could increase the appetite for sugar in general. The researchers conclude that sweetened beverages increases the risk of obesity, itself a risk factor for diabetes, and that their study found a correlation between a high consumption of sweetened beverages and diabetes independent of the body size of women.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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