Sugary drinks are big risk for diabetes

23 July 2015
Posted by Amy Goodfellow.

Consuming one sugary drink per day on a regular basis has been found to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%.A can of sugary drink

In 2010 it was estimated that the number of people with type 2 diabetes in England was 3.1 million. This is anticipated to reach 4.6 million by the year 2030. 

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1, occurring in around 90% of cases. Patients with the condition fail to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone insulin,  leading to elevated blood sugar levels. This, in time, can damage nerves and blood vessels and lead to blindness and kidney failure.

Now a new study published this week in the British Medial Journal by Dr Nita Forouhi and colleages at the University of Cambridge has found that regular consumption of drinks containing sugar significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, regardless of whether a person is obese.

Sugar has many negative effects on the body. It is common knowledge that sugar is high in calories and so can cause health problems through obesity. Sugary drinks are also less satiating than the equivalent number of calories from food, so we can end up eating more without feeling full. In addition to these effects, the large amount of sugar in these drinks causes spikes in the glucose levels in the body followed by an ensuing surge of insulin. This promotes the build up of fat. 

There are also non-glucose-related effects linked to the presence of colourings, caffeine and phosphoric acid. 

This study calculated the health effect caused by the consumption of sugary drinks alone. Other factors, such as smoking, obesity and activity levels were taken into account to give the effect purely due to sugary drinks. The results are astounding. If we were to cut out sugary drinks from our diets, we could stop an estimated 2 million cases of diabetes in the USA, and 80,000 in the UK. 

But what can we do about this? Sugar is found hidden everywhere in our diets. It is a common addition to savoury foods or low-fat varieties. According to Forouhi, the easiest way would be simply to get rid of sugary drinks. In these, the presence of sugar is no secret. 

"Individuals need to take responsibility, but also we need to make our overall environment less sugary by providing healthier options."

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