Sugary drinks associated with type 2 diabetes, say researchers

by Barbara Hewitt on July 22, 2015

Drinking sugar sweetened drinks regularly has little benefit and has a direct link with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by an international team of researchers.

Indeed, they estimate that regular consumption could result in nearly two million new diabetes cases over 10 years in the United States and 80,000 in the UK.

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Regular consumption of sugary drinks could result in 2 million new cases of diabetes in the US alone

And substituting sugar sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juice is unlikely to be the best strategy in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, they also found.

The team of researchers, led by the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge in England, set out to assess whether or not habitual consumption of sugar sweetened drinks, artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juice was associated with the incidence of type 2 diabetes and to estimate the 10 year risk attributable to sugar sweetened drinks.

The researchers analysed the results of 17 observational studies and found that habitual consumption of sugar sweetened drinks was positively associated with incidence of type 2 diabetes, independently of obesity status.

The association between artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juice and type 2 diabetes was less evident. Yet, the researchers found little evidence for benefits of these beverages, and therefore concluded these drinks are unlikely to be healthy alternatives to sugar sweetened drinks for preventing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers point out that the studies analysed were observational, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. However, assuming a causal association, they estimate that two million new onset type 2 diabetes events in the USA and 80,000 in the UK from 2010 to 2020 would be related to consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.

This latest review builds on ongoing research into the health impact of sugar sweetened drinks, including recent findings from the EPIC-InterAct study in eight European countries as well as work in the EPIC-Norfolk study in the UK, which found that drinking water or unsweetened tea or coffee in place of one sugary drink per day can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

‘These findings together indicate that substituting sugar sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juice is unlikely to be the best strategy in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Water or other unsweetened beverages are better options,’ said Dr Fumiaki Imamura, lead author of the study at the MRC Epidemiology Unit.

Colleague, Dr Nita Forouhi, senior author of the study, explained that the new findings provide further evidence to support the recent UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommendation that minimising the consumption of sugary drinks presents a clear opportunity towards the goal of free sugars contributing to no more than 5% of daily energy intake and to improve health.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com 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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