Sweetened Beverages Directly Linked to Metabolic Diseases

Summary
Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, and even energy drinks, is a global phenomenon that has shown a rising trend in the recent past. Latest research has shown that high consumption of these drinks may have a negative health impact. The authors of this study analyzed data from several sources and confirmed this fact. They have shown that sugary drinks, when consumed in higher amounts, increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, weight gain and obesity.

Introduction
Sweet beverages include drinks that contain added sweeteners like sucrose, fructose or fruit concentrates. These sugars carry a high caloric index and recent studies have pointed at a link between these drinks and obesity and metabolic syndrome, which also includes diabetes, increased cholesterol and high blood pressure. These chronic diseases are associated with considerable long-term complications, which can even be catastrophic. The authors of this review collected available data in an attempt to analyze the relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and chronic metabolic diseases including diabetes, because they feel that this connection between sugary drinks and the diseases “has not been quantitatively reviewed”.

Methodology

  • This study analyzed various previous studies that collected data on the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) including soft drinks, carbonated drinks, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, vitamin water drinks, sweetened iced tea, punch, cordials, squashes and lemonade in adults.
  • The authors used a medical database to identify relevant studies. Only those studies that studied the relation between SSB use and type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome in adults were included in this analysis.
  • Eight studies on type 2 diabetes and three on metabolic syndrome were used for the final analysis. The included study had adult male and female patients from the U.S., Finland, China and Singapore.
  • For the diabetes analysis, there were 310,819 participants, of which 15,043 were cases of type 2 diabetes. For metabolic syndrome analysis, there were 19,431 participants, with 5,803 diagnosed cases.

Results

  • The individuals who consumed higher amounts of SSB had a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as compared to those with lower consumption.
  • The risk of metabolic syndrome was 20% more in individuals with higher SSB consumption.
  • For diabetes alone, the risk of development of disease per increase in one 12 oz serving of SSB per day ranged from 15% to 25%.
  • Amongst the included studies, studies that were longer in duration showed a stronger influence of SSBs on the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Shortcomings
This was a detailed analysis of previously conducted studies which varied in design and methods, thereby influencing the results. Also, though this analysis shows that high consumption of sweetened beverages is linked to development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, it does not provide guidelines for how much beverage can be consumed safely. In short, there is no clear definition of “high consumption”. Further research needs to look at the upper permissible level of consumption for development of valid guidelines in this area.

Conclusion
This study shows a clear link between consumption of beverages containing sugar and the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Sugar sweetened beverages may be considered as extra calories that add to the risk of developing chronic metabolic diseases. It is safe to say that consumption of sugar sweetened beverages must be restricted, especially in the case of individuals already diagnosed with a metabolic disease and in those who are at a risk for the same. Healthier alternatives, even plain water, can be used as substitutes for sugary drinks that are potentially harmful.  Doing so will help lower weight-related disease risk.

For More Information:
Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Linked to Development of Diabetes and Obesity
Diabetes Care, November 2010
By Vasanti S Malik, and Barry M Popkin, PhD
From the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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