Voice of Diabetes
July 9, 2020

Sugary drinks in diabetes firing line

Can sugary drinks give you type 2 diabetes? A major review of the evidence suggests that while we can’t go that far, sweetened drinks are on the suspect list when it comes to increasing risk.Studies showing that people who have a lot of sweetened drinks are more likely to have type 2 diabetes are not new, but it’s generally been assumed that the weight gain that’s also associated with having a lot of fizzy drinks is to blame.

Now a new analysis of 11 of these studies has not only confirmed that there is a clear link between sweetened drinks and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but has also found that the risk is increased even if weight gain is allowed for.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in the USA assessed the results of studies covering more than 320,000 people. They found that people who drank one or two sugar-sweetened drinks a day on average had a 26 per cent risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who drank sweetened drinks less than once a month or not at all.

The researchers concluded that some of the increased risk could be linked to weight gain, but not all. More work needs to be done to explore further what role sweetened drinks might play, if any, in type 2 diabetes. One possibility might be that sugar in drinks raises your blood glucose quickly and over time, rapid spikes and falls in blood glucose may contribute to insulin resistance, which in turn raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The research paper, published in the journal Diabetes Care, can be found here. >>

Which drinks?

The drinks covered in the Harvard analysis included sugar-sweetened soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea (much more popular in the USA than the UK) , energy drinks and vitamin water drinks, but not pure fruit juices without added sugar were not included.

Giving up sugar in tea and coffee, and swapping full-sugar fizzy drinks for diet versions, are obvious ways to cut down on sweetened drinks. But it’s worth remembering that sugar lurks in all kinds of drinks, some of which we might think are fairly healthy, such as squashes and fruit drinks, flavoured vitamin waters, dairy drinks like yogurts and smoothies, and energy and sports drinks.

The Daily Mail recently asked Medical Research Council nutritionists to analyse 40 popular drinks for their sugar content. They found that many contained several teaspoons of sugar per serving. You can see the full article here. >>

What’s the verdict?

Even if the jury is still out on the link between sugary drinks and type 2 diabetes, cutting down is an easy way to save calories and keep your blood glucose steady.  Your dentist will thank you too. Calorie-free sweeteners in tea or coffee can give you that sweet taste, and go for calorie-free diet drinks for an occasional fizzy treat. Find out more here.

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