Even non-obese individuals at risk of type 2 diabetes from sugary drinks

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Sugary drinks have often been linked to type 2 diabetes in obese individuals, but a new study has revealed that habitual consumption of soft drinks and artificially sweetened fruit juices could also lead to type 2 diabetes in non-obese individuals.

An international team of researchers analysed results of 17 observational studies and based on their findings they reveal that there is a positive association between type 2 diabetes, independently of obesity status. The research was led by the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.

Researchers acknowledged that though the link between type 2 diabetes and artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juices is less evident there was little evidence to suggest that there are benefits of these beverages. This they say indicates that artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juices are unlikely to be healthy alternatives to sugar sweetened drinks for preventing type 2 diabetes.

Though there is no definitive conclusion because the analysis was based on observational studies, if a causal association is established, it could indicate that an estimated two million new-onset type 2 diabetes events in the USA and 80,000 in the UK from 2010 to 2020 would be related to consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.

This latest review builds on ongoing research into the health impact of sugar sweetened drinks, including recent findings from the EPIC-InterAct study in eight European countries as well as work in the EPIC-Norfolk study in the UK, which found that drinking water or unsweetened tea or coffee in place of one sugary drink per day can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Fumiaki Imamura, lead author of the study at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, said: “These findings together indicate that substituting sugar sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juice is unlikely to be the best strategy in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes: water or other unsweetened beverages are better options.”

Dr Nita Forouhi, senior author of the study at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, said: “Our new findings provide further evidence to support the recent UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommendation that minimising the consumption of sugary drinks presents a clear opportunity towards the goal of free sugars contributing to no more than 5% of daily energy intake and to improve health.”