By Larry Huston
A new study uncovers some potentially important new details about the association between sugared drinks and diabetes.
In a paper published in Diabetologia [pdf], researchers in the UK report on a study of more than 25,000 adults. Over the course of more than 10 years of followup 847 participants went on to develop diabetes. Instead of relying on a food frequency questionnaire, as in most earlier studies, the new study, known as the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk study, used dietary information obtained from 7 day food diaries filled out by the study participants. According to the authors, diaries are more reliable and allow for a more detailed analysis of different dietary components.
Overall, each 5% increase in the amount of calories coming from sweetened beverages was associated with an 18% increase in diabetes. Soft drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi, sweetened milk beverages, and artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) were all associated with a greater than 20% increase in diabetes. However, the association with artificially sweetened beverages lost statistical significance when the researchers took weight into account, suggesting that the association was likely “an artifact of reverse causality where those who are overweight or obese and at higher risk of chronic disease consume a higher amount of ASB than those at lower risk.” Replacing soft drinks and sweetened-milk drinks with water or unsweetened tea of coffee would significantly cut the rate of diabetes, the authors calculated.
The association of tea and coffee with diabetes has not been well studied in the past. The new study found that sweetened tea or coffee had no association with diabetes while unsweetened tea or coffee had an inverse association. The study is also the first to link sweetened-milk beverages to diabetes, but the authors write that the association is “unsurprising” since added sugar contributes more than half the sugar contained in milkshakes and flavored milks.
The authors conclude that “it is now timely and appropriate to consider population-based interventions to reduce SSB consumption and increase the consumption of suitable alternative beverages.”
In a press release, the senior author of the paper, Nita Forouhi, said, “The good news is that our study provides evidence that replacing a daily serving of a sugary soft drink or sugary milk drink with water or unsweetened tea or coffee can help to cut the risk of diabetes, offering practical suggestions for healthy alternative drinks for the prevention of diabetes.”