The regular consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is positively associated with type 2 diabetes independent of obesity status, according to international research.
Artificially sweetened drinks and fruit juice also showed a positive association with type 2 diabetes, but the quality of evidence was limited, said the study authors.
“Habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice was prospectively associated with incident type 2 diabetes”
A team led by researchers from Cambridge University set out to assess whether or not habitual consumption of sugar sweetened drinks, artificially sweetened drinks, or fruit juice was linked with type 2 diabetes incidence.
They analysed the results of 17 observational studies, involving around 40,000 patients.
They found that “habitual consumption” of sugar sweetened drinks was positively associated with incidence of type 2 diabetes, independently of obesity status.
They suggested the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages may be linked to 2-6% of type 2 diabetes incidence in the UK over a 10 year period.
The association between artificially sweetened drinks or fruit juice and incident type 2 diabetes was less evident, said the researchers.
Yet, they found little evidence of benefits from these drinks, and therefore concluded they were unlikely to be healthy alternatives to sugar sweetened versions for preventing type 2 diabetes.
“This study adds to evidence that sugary drinks are bad for health and can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes”
Assuming a causal association, they estimated that 80,000 new-onset type 2 diabetes events in the UK from 2010 to 2020 would be related to consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.
“Our findings and available evidence indicate a benefit of reducing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes,” said the study authors in the British Medical Journal.
“In the same context, our findings also imply that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages or fruit juice is not likely to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and, thus, not suitable as a healthy option,” they said.
“Nonetheless, the lower caloric intake of artificially sweetened beverages may be of clinical benefit in obese or overweight adults by helping to reduce body weight,” they added.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at Diabetes UK, said the study added to existing evidence that sugary drinks could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“This study does not, though, provide strong evidence about whether this is because of the calories they contain or if there is something else going on in the body that is leading to an increase in risk,” he said.
He added that the charity advised patients to limit intake of sugary drinks as part of a healthy diet in order to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.