Soft Drinks’ Effect on Weight Gain, Diabetes
Women who drink lots of sugar-sweetened soft drinks gain weight and increase their risk of developing type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2004;292:927–34).
Soft drink consumption is rising in the US: in a recent 20-year period, adults drank 61% more soft drinks, and children’s intake increased by 100%. Soft drinks are now the number-one source of added sugars in the American diet. These sugars, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, are rapidly converted to glucose in the body. The sudden rise in blood glucose that occurs after drinking a sugary drink can stimulate a burst of insulin to be released. Over time, frequent spikes of insulin can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Approximately 17 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes, with the number rapidly rising as the population becomes more obese.
The current study examined the data from two groups of women who participated in one large study. Every two years women answered questionnaires regarding sugary soft drink consumption, weight changes, and new diagnoses of type 2 diabetes. More than 51,000 women were included in the weight-change assessment and more than 91,000 in the diabetes assessment. Women whose sugary soft drink intake increased from low (one or fewer per week) to high (one or more per day) experienced more weight gain than those whose intake decreased or stayed the same. Their average weight gain was 4.69 kg (10.3 pounds) during a four-year period; by comparison, the women who decreased their sugary soft drink intake from high to low experienced a weight gain of only 1.34 kg (2.9 pounds) during the same time period.
Furthermore, over an eight-year period, the risk of diabetes in women who had one or more sugary soft drinks per day was 98% higher than in women who had less than one drink per month. Similarly, women whose fruit juice consumption changed from low to high gained significantly more weight than women who decreased fruit juice consumption from high to low during a four-year period (4.03 kg/8.9 pounds versus 2.32 kg/5.1 pounds). Drinking fruit juice was not related to risk of diabetes, however, presumably because some of the beneficial nutrients in fruit juice counterbalance the adverse effect of fruit juice consumption on body weight.
These findings suggest that sugary soft drinks might contribute significantly to weight gain and risk of type 2 diabetes. Healthcare professionals should educate people about the negative effects of drinking these beverages. Public efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption could have a major impact on the rapidly rising rate of obesity and diabetes.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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