Sugary Drinks May Raise Diabetes Risk
Analysis Shows Link Between Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Diabetes
WebMD News Archive
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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."
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.
Sugar-free diet beverages aren't an alternative she would endorse either. "Sure, artificially sweetened beverages are calorie-free for the most part, which is a good thing," she says, "but there are a lot of chemicals in them."
The intense sweet flavor in the artificially sweetened drinks, she says, may condition you to prefer more sweets in the diet.
Dunbar agrees: ''Even if you don't have diabetes, sugar-sweetened beverages are really not healthful."
But habits are hard to break, she tells WebMD. "For people drinking a lot of soda, they are probably not going to switch and drink just water." She suggests a gradual weaning from the sugary drinks. "You can use fruit juice and mix with seltzer or carbonated water. Work it down so you have just a little flavoring in the water."
And when you have to have a sugar-sweetened beverage? "Get the smallest size available," Dunbar says.