Are sugar-packed soft drinks really the devil in disguise?

Sugar-packed soft drinks are the devil incarnate. That’s the popular opinion shared by many health professionals, personal trainers and, we dare say, many members of the general public. The added sugar has no real nutritional benefit to speak of, is directly responsible for tooth decay and just packs on unnecessary calories. So in that respect sugar-filled soft drinks aren’t good for you. But can these soft drinks be even more harmful than we initially believed? Well, according to the latest medical study the answer is yes. Drinking one or more cans of sugary soft drinks is now being linked to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in later life. According to a report in the science journal, Diabetologia, drinking a can a day of these drinks raised the relative risk of developing Type-2 diabetes by roughly 20 percent, compared with one can a month. The latest findings echo the results of earlier studies in the USA. The latest study was carried out in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Italy, France and the Netherland, and sampled over 350,000 individuals who were questioned about their diet. The original study was looking at the possible links between diet and cancer, but stumbled upon the Type-2 diabetes risk by chance.

According to lead researcher at Imperial College, Dora Romaguera:

“The consumption of sugar sweetened soft drinks increases your risk of diabetes – so for every can of soft drinks that you drink per day, the risk is higher. Given the increase in sweet beverage consumption in Europe, clear messages on its deleterious effect on health should be given to the population.”

Dr Romaguera and her colleagues also found that there was a link to an increased risk of diabetes through drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks, but this disappeared when body mass index was taken into account. However, Dr Matthew Hobbs, head of research at Diabetes UK, claimed the link between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and Type-2 diabetes persisted even when body mass index was taken into account, and claimed the increased risk is not solely due to the extra calories consumed. Speaking to the BBC, he added:

“Even so, it is not definitive evidence that sugar-sweetened soft drinks increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, other than through their effect on body weight. We do, though, already recommend limiting consumption of sugary foods and drinks as these are usually high in calories and so can lead to weight gain if you have too many of them.”

“This is important for Type 2 diabetes because we know that maintaining a healthy weight is the single most important thing you can do to prevent it.”

So are sugar-packed soft drinks really as bad as they are claimed? Well statistics expert, Professor Patrick Wolfe, from University College London, said the absolute risk of Type-2 diabetes is low at about 4 percent of the adult UK population:

“In and of themselves, sugary soft drinks are only part of the picture – they’re just one of the potential risk factors for Type-2 diabetes,” he said.

“But since they are one we can easily eliminate – by switching to diet soft drinks or, even better, cutting them out of our diets altogether – it makes good sense to do so.”

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