The findings, from a study published in the BMJ, suggest that drinking just about a cup of these liquids each day may be dangerous to your health. About half of America indulges in sugar-sweetened beverages, and the study suggests it’s time for a lot of us to start rethinking what we drink.
About the study
Researchers combed through medical databases and found 17 studies that looked at consumption of sweetened drinks and fruit juices, type 2 diabetes and weight. They also used national health surveys that included adults who did not have diabetes at the start of the survey.
Sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as any beverage with added sugar, including sodas and sugar-sweetened fruit juices. Habitual consumption was considered to be having at least one 250-milliliter serving—or about 8.5 ounces—a day.
The analysis found that habitually drinking beverages sweetened with sugar was associated with a higher likelihood of type 2 diabetes. The risk was greater when combined with obesity.
But daily consumption was dangerous for people of normal weight too. Drinking a daily serving increased the risk for diabetes by 18 percent for people who were classified as obese. For non-obese people, the increased risk was 13 percent.
The researchers estimated that, over a 10-year period in the U.S., 11 percent of type 2 diabetes cases could be attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages alone. However, the findings are based on observational studies, which can suggest an association but not point to a direct cause-and-effect relationship between these beverages and type 2 diabetes.
The study was not able to establish a reliable relationship between 100-percent fruit juice or artificially sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes. But the evidence suggested that neither drink was unlikely to be a healthy alternative to sodas and fruit drinks—at least not where diabetes is concerned.
The take-home message
It’s probably a good idea to reduce your consumption of sweet drinks, especially those with added sugars. But how can you do that?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts offer these tips:
Head for the H2O. Water is always a good option for quenching thirst and staying hydrated. It’s inexpensive and has no calories. And it’s easy to flavor with a slice of lemon or lime. And seltzer can give you that bubbly feeling if you’re switching from soda.
Make it milk. Milk has nutrients your body needs—like calcium and potassium. And instead of containing added sugar, it’s fortified with vitamin D. Nonfat and low-fat milk are the healthiest options and have fewer calories than whole milk.
Try unsweetened herbal tea . Steep your own favorite and chill for a flavorful sipper without any caffeine or added sugar.