Sugary Drinks Linked Strongly To Type 2 Diabetes

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A new study projects some hard numbers for what many have suspected in the past – that sugary drinks are linked to diabetes. The researchers at University of Cambridge culled a number of past studies and found some disturbing connections between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes. Perhaps most startling was that the connection was evident regardless of whether a person was overweight or normal weight. Though the study didn’t show causation, the correlation should be enough, say the authors, to prompt us to give our sugar habits a good hard look.

After weeding out studies that appeared to be low quality, the team looked at 17 high quality studies on beverage consumption and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Running the statistics, they found that people who consumed one sugary drink per day had an 18% increased risk of developing diabetes over a 10 year period, compared to those who didn’t consume the drinks. After the team adjusted for weight, the risk of developing diabetes for a normal weight person was still increased by 13%.

“Even if people have the same body weight, or body size,” said lead author Fumiaki Imamura, “the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages of one serving per day was associated with 13% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.”

For artificially sweetened drinks, there was a trend toward a connection to diabetes, but it wasn’t significant after the researchers accounted for possible bias in the studies. Still, they say, the evidence is enough to make us rethink our belief that artificially sweetened beverages as a safe alternative to sugar. Other studies in recent months have suggested that artificially sweetened beverages may be linked to a number of other health problems, along with increased belly fat and disrupted gut bacteria, though these findings, too, are somewhat up for discussion.

And again, causation can’t be demonstrated here in the new study – just correlation. Other variables could theoretically be at play.

Assuming causation is behind the connection, however, the team extrapolated how many type 2 diabetes cases might be prevented if people just stopped drinking sugar-sweetened drinks. In the U.S., the team estimated that of the 21 million diabetes cases predicted to develop by 2020, two million of these would be prevented if people stopping consuming the drinks. In the U.K., where 2.6 million cases are predicted by 2020, they estimate that 80,000 of these would be prevented if people stopped drinking sugary drinks.

Earlier this month, a study estimated that globally 184,000 people die each year from health problems related to sugary drink consumption. More research is needed, of course, but the evidence is looking pretty rough for sugary drinks. They offer no nutritional value, and lead to a quick spike and drop in blood sugar. The American Beverage Association hasn’t put out a statement on this study yet, but no doubt they will shortly. But while more research is being done, it probably doesn’t hurt to step away from the soda… Your pancreas, and other body parts, will surely thank you.

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Source: Forbes