The Role of Sugary Drinks in Diabetes Risk

Type 2 diabetes risk linked to sugar-sweetened beverage intake as part of poor diet

Sugary drinks have recently been linked to type 2 diabetes risk, but new evidence suggests a more complicated picture.

A new study from Sweden found that people who consume a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) tended to have a poor diet overall. This suggests that it may be the combination of the two, rather than the effects of SSBs alone, that can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar.

For this study, a team of researchers led by Louise Brunkwall, a PhD student at Lund University and dietary coordinator of the Malmö Offspring Study, looked at 25,112 patients without heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Slightly more than half of these patients were women.

These patients kept a seven-day food diary and completed a 168-item survey on their beverage, macronutrient and food intake.

Brunkwall and team then sorted these patients according to their intake of SSBs, artificially sweetened beverages, juice, coffee and tea.

Patients with high SSB intake tended to eat less healthy foods — such as vegetables, fruits, yogurt, fiber-rich bread and fish — than those with low SSB intake.

Similarly, those with low SSB intake tended to eat more healthy foods. For instance, patients who drank coffee and tea tended to have a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and yogurt.

According to Brunkwall and team, because SSBs are only one part of a bigger dietary picture, care must be taken when linking these beverages to disease risk.

This study was presented at the 2015 meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in Stockholm, Sweden. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation and Novo Nordisk (which makes drugs used in the treatment of diabetes) funded this research.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.