Study: Soft drinks associated with diabetes

A review of published studies shows a clear and consistent relationship between drinking sugary (non-diet) soft drinks and poor nutrition, increased risk for obesity — and increased risk for diabetes.

There is no denying that sugar-loaded soft drinks are having “a negative impact on health,” Dr. Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.

Having analyzed and reviewed 88 studies on the issue, Brownell and his colleagues conclude that recommendations to curb soft drink consumption on a population level are strongly supported by the available scientific evidence.

Results of a study of more than 91,000 women followed for 8 years provides one of the “most striking” links between soft drinks and health outcomes, the investigators note in the American Journal of Public Health.

In the study, women who drank one or more sodas per day — an amount less than the US national average — were twice as likely as those who drank less than one soda per month to develop diabetes over the course of the study.

When diet soda replaced regular soda in the analysis, there was no increased risk, “suggesting that the risk was specific to sugar-sweetened soft drinks,” note the authors.

“This result alone,” they assert, “warrants serious concern about soft drink intake, particularly in light of the unprecedented rise in type 2 diabetes in children.”

The data reviewed by Brownell’s team also show that higher intake of sugary sodas goes hand-in-hand with lower intake of milk, calcium and other essential nutrients, fruit and fiber, and higher intake of carbohydrates.

Furthermore, there was a “remarkable difference” in results from industry-funded and non-industry-funded studies on soft drink consumption and health outcomes, Brownell said, “with the industry-funded studies much more likely to find the results favorable to industry.”

“The bigger issue here, in this arena in particular but in science in general,” Brownell said, “is how you can get a distorted view of reality if industry-funded studies are considered in the mix — and usually they are — especially, when industry uses these studies in advertising, lobbying, and in talking to the press.”

When it comes to soft drink consumption among America’s youth, Brownell added, “the decisions parents make are one thing, but the relentless marketing to children is another.”

He supports the growing trend toward banning soda sales in schools. “I believe schools should be a commercial-free zone and that beverages that are contributing to ill health should not be sold there,” Brownell said.


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