(Bloomberg) — Just one soft drink consumed daily can raise the risk of diabetes by 22%, a study shows.

A mere 12 ounces serving size of sugar-sweetened soft drink a day may increase the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, according to a study published recently by Diabetologia.

The study, led by Dora Romaguera, Petra Wark and Teresa Norat, researchers at the Imperial College in London, adds to a growing body of evidence that sugar intake has an impact both on weight gain and diabetes. This has been fueling a debate over public policy aimed at curbing the obesity epidemic and related diseases, including New York City’s decision to restrict sales of large-sized sugary soft drinks.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, on the rise in Europe, induces rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and in insulin secretion, leading to insulin resistance, one of mechanisms which causes diabetes, according to the authors of the study published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

 “It’s alarming,” Romaguera says. “Most people are not really aware of the dangers of these drinks.”


The researchers used data on consumption of juices and nectars, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and artificially sweetened beverages collected across eight European patient groups participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, also known as EPIC.

The study included 12,403 Type 2 diabetics and a random population of 16,154 people identified within EPIC. The researchers found that, after adjusting for confounding factors, a single serving size of sugar-sweetened soft drink per day increased the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 18% when the results were adjusted to reflect total energy intake and body-mass index.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks “increases your risk of developing diabetes beyond the effect on body weight,” Romaguera says. “You may remain thin and still have a higher risk of developing diabetes.”

With artificially sweetened soft drinks, the association disappeared after taking into account the BMI of participants. Consumption of pure fruit juices and nectars, juices that have been diluted to some extent and may contain additives, was not significantly associated with diabetes incidence.

Keep moving

Lifestyle changes around the globe have kindled a surge in diabetes cases. The number of sufferers worldwide will almost double to an estimated 552 million by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Some diabetics, suffering from so-called Type 1 diabetes, have a lifelong inability to produce insulin. The Type 2 variant tends to strike later in life, brought on by obesity and sedentary lifestyles, as people become resistant to the insulin their own body produces.

The increased risk of diabetes among sugar-sweetened soft drink consumers in Europe was similar to findings in an analysis of previous studies conducted in North America, Romaguera says.

Sugary soft drinks are becoming “a very hot topic”, with campaigns taking place in places like New York, Romaguera says.

In March, New York City challenged a state supreme court ruling throwing out Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to restrict sales of those soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces a cup. The city’s Board of Health approved the plan in September, rejecting arguments from Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and restaurant companies whose coalition said consumers should be free to choose. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Some companies have started taking action. The London-based drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc said last week it plans to sell the Lucozade Energy and Ribena drink businesses. Coca-Cola, Nestle SA and Tesco Plc also have signed up to the British government pledge to reduce calories in their products, the U.K. health department said earlier this year.


Photo: ThinkStock

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