According to a new Harvard T.H. study, those who increase their consumption of sweet drinks, whether they contain an additive or natural sugar, can moderately raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Drinking more sweetened beverages (SSB), such as soft drinks, and 100% of fruit juices, has been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study also showed that drinking artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) instead of sweet drinks does not seem to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. However, the risk of diabetes was reduced when a daily portion of any sugar beverage was replaced by water, coffee or tea. This is the first study to determine whether long-term changes in SSB and ASB consumption are associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study which was published online on October 3, 2019 in Diabetes Care magazine provides more evidence to show the health benefits of reducing the consumption of sweet drinks and replacing them with healthier alternatives such as water, coffee or tea according to Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, of the Department of Nutrition.
The study analyzed data from more than 192,000 men and women who participated in three long-term studies:
- A health nursing study
- A health nursing study II
- A complementary study for health professionals
The researchers calculated the changes in participants’ sugar intake over time based on their responses to the four-year food frequency questionnaires.
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Adapting to variables such as weight index, other changes in diet and lifestyle, the researchers found that the increase in total consumption of sugary beverages, including SSB and 100% fruit juice, by more than 4 grams per day over a four-year period was associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes by 16% over the next four years. The increase in ASB consumption by more than 4 ounces per day for more than four years was associated with an increase in the risk of developing diabetes by 18%, but the authors found that ASB results were cautious due to the likelihood of reverse causation (people already at high risk of developing diabetes could switch to artificially sweetened drinks) and observational bias (people at high risk are more likely to be screened for diabetes and therefore receive a faster diagnosis).
The study also showed that the replacement of a daily portion of a beverage with sugar by water, coffee or tea, but not ASB, was associated with a 2-10% lower risk of developing diabetes. The results of the study are in line with existing standards to replace sweet drinks with non-alcoholic beverages that do not contain artificial sweeteners. Even though fruit juices contain minerals, antioxidants and vitamins, their intake should be in moderation, said Frank Hu, Fredrick J Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition Principal Author of the study.