prediabetes

New study confirms that sugary drinks do affect diabetes risk

by Barbara Hewitt on November 11, 2016

Regularly drinking sugary drinks does increase the risk of developing prediabetes and increased insulin resistance, researchers have found, but diet versions of these drinks do not seem to have the same effect.

When it comes to sugary drinks and their effect on the body it can be confusing and the latest research from the United States might just add to that general confusion.

Sugary-DrinksThe team from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Massachusetts found that adults who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages, roughly one can per day, had a 46% higher risk of developing prediabetes compared to low- or non-consumers over a 14-year period.

The epidemiological analysis also found that a higher intake of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with increased insulin resistance which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

However, no associations between diet drink consumption and risk of prediabetes or increased insulin resistance were found although the research team pointed out that previous studies on associations between diet soda and risk of type 2 diabetes have produced mixed results.

It is clear that the message from these kind of studies is confusing and not set in stone and the Tufts University team said that further studies are needed in this area to establish if there are long term health effects relating to artificially sweetened drinks.

‘Although our study cannot establish causality, our results suggest that high sugar sweetened beverage intake increases the chances of developing early warning signs for type 2 diabetes. If lifestyle changes are not made, individuals with prediabetes are on the trajectory to developing diabetes,’ said senior study author Nicola McKeown, associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

‘Our findings support recommendations to limit sugar sweetened beverage intake, which can be achieved by replacing sugary beverages with healthier alternatives such as water or unsweetened coffee or tea,’ she pointed out.

‘This is a simple dietary modification that could be of substantial health benefit to people who consume sugary drinks daily and who are at increased risk of diabetes,’ she added.

In the current study, McKeown and her colleagues analysed longitudinal data on 1,685 middle aged adults over a period of 14 years, obtained from the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring cohort, a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded programme that has monitored multiple generations for lifestyle and clinical characteristics that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Selected participants did not have diabetes or prediabetes during an initial baseline examination and self-reported their long term sugar sweetened beverage and diet drink consumption habits through food frequency questionnaires. Sugar sweetened beverages were defined as colas and other carbonated beverages, and non-carbonated fruit drinks such as lemonade and fruit punch. Fruit juice was not included in the sugar sweetened beverage category.

The team found those who drank the highest amounts of sugar sweetened drinks had a significantly greater risk of developing prediabetes compared to low or non-consumers after adjusting for factors such as age, sex and body mass index. The highest consumers of sugar sweetened beverages had roughly 8% higher insulin resistance scores, compared to low or non-consumers after follow-up at seven years. Even after accounting for change in weight and other aspects of diet, the relationships between sugar sweetened beverages and these metabolic risk factors for diabetes persisted.

Diet drink intake, defined as low calorie cola or other carbonated low calorie drinks, had no statistical associations with risk for either prediabetes or insulin resistance. However, previous research on the relationship between diet soda and type 2 diabetes has been mixed, and it is still unclear whether any observed associations are due to direct or indirect factors.

‘Based on our observational study alone, we cannot be certain why we saw the relationships we did. Additional studies are needed to fully understand the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages and diet sodas,’ said lead study author Jiantao Ma.

‘Nevertheless, our data are consistent with many other studies and clinical trials that support the health benefits of reducing sugar intake, and we encourage the public to look for healthier options,’ added Ma.

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