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Sugary Drinks May Raise Diabetes Risk

Analysis Shows Link Between Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Diabetes
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The risk of developing type 2 diabetes varies from person to person, depending on such factors as family history, ethnicity, weight, and age.

The link between sugar-sweetened beverages and diabetes and metabolic syndrome risk can be partially explained by the weight gain that can result from drinking the sugar-sweetened beverages, which in turn boosts type 2 diabetes risk, the researchers say. The sugar-sweetened drinks can also raise blood sugar and insulin concentrations quickly, in turn leading to insulin resistance and and higher risk of diabetes, according to the researchers.

Industry Comment

The new analysis finds only correlations, not cause and effect, between sugar-sweetened beverages and diabetes, says Maureen Storey, PhD, senior vice president for science policy for the American Beverage Association, the trade association representing companies making non-alcoholic drinks.

In a statement, Storey says: "It is overly simplistic, and simply misleading, to suggest that reducing or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet will uniquely lower [the] incidence of serious health conditions such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome."

A critical flaw in the studies analyzed, she says, is that "the authors focus only on the impact of one calorie source --- sugar-sweetened beverages -- on weight, rather than looking at all sources of calories."

A primary risk factor for both diabetes and metabolic syndrome, she says, is obesity, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce that risk. "And we know that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing calories consumed, regardless of their source, with calories burned."

There's nothing unique, she says, about calories from sugar-sweetened beverages.

The new analysis "confirms what's known" about sugar-sweetened beverages and diabetes risk, says Stephanie Dunbar, RD, MPH, director of clinical affairs for the American Diabetes Association.

"This [new analysis] doesn't give us cause and effect, but I think it solidifies, 'Yes, we think there is an association there."

Beverage Alternatives

Limiting your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is suggested by Malik and Dunbar. Try sparkling water with a lime wedge as an alternative, Malik says.

"For the general public, there's certainly no benefit from drinking these sugar-sweetened beverages," she says. "Everyone should be discouraged from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, not just for the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome."  She cites other research linking sugar-sweetened beverages to tooth decay and heart disease, among other ills.

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