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Sugary Drinks May Raise Diabetes Risk

Analysis Shows Link Between Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Diabetes

Industry Comment continued...

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.

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.


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