Sugary drinks, fruit juices and even artificially-sweetened drinks linked independently of obesity with type 2 diabetes
Regular consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is positively associated with type 2 diabetes independent of obesity status, but surprisingly other non-sugary drinks are linked with type two diabetes also.
The study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found artificially sweetened drinks and fruit juice also showed a positive association with type 2 diabetes, but the quality of evidence was limited. Nonetheless, the authors warn that neither artificially sweetened drinks nor fruit juice are suitable alternatives to sugar sweetened drinks for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Artificially sweetened beverages have been seen as possible alternatives to sugar sweetened beverages to reduce intake of sugars and energy, and fruit juice has been considered a healthier alternative.
The international team of researchers led by the MRC Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University 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 in the USA and UK.
The researchers analysed the results of 17 observational studies. Design and quality were taken into account to minimise bias. None of these was funded by industry.
The researchers 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 incident type 2 diabetes was less evident. Yet, the researchers 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, if assuming there is a causal association, the researchersestimate 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.
“Although more research on cause and effect needs to be carried out, this study indicates the potential health gains that may be achieved by reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened drinks,” the researchers conclude.
Australian softdrink industry response
Following the publication of the journal article, the Australian beverages Council has issued a statement criticising the journal article.
Australian Beverage Council CEO Geoff Parker said “The British Medical Journal study points the finger at sugar sweetened beverages without drawing definitive conclusions,”
“The persistent focus on a single ingredient or product as a cause for chronic disease, including diabetes, is neither helpful to consumers nor based on evidence of the importance of a balanced diet,” said the statement by Mr Parker.
“There is no direct link with a single food or drink, including soft drinks, to the incident of type 2 diabetes,” said Mr Parker from the Australian Beverage Council.