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Put down that soda or milkshake: A recent European study has found that drinking one sugar-sweetened drink per day - just one - can raise your risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 25%.

milkshakes, diabetes

The new British study, published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, tracked the beverage consumption habits of more than 25,000 adults ages 40-79 over a period of 11 years, to see who was more or less likely to develop diabetes. None had diabetes at the start of the study. The research showed that those who drank unsweetened or lightly sweetened coffee, tea or water daily instead of sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas and milkshakes, were up to 25% less likely to develop diabetes.

The association of tea and coffee with diabetes has not been well-studied in the past. This is also the first study to link sweetened-milk beverages like milkshakes and flavored milks to diabetes. The authors write that the association is “unsurprising” since added sugar contributes more than half of the sugar contained in these drinks.

In a press release, the senior author of the paper, Dr. Nita Forouhi of the University of Cambridge, said, “The good news is that our study provides evidence that replacing a daily serving of a sugary soft drink or sugary milk drink with water or unsweetened tea or coffee can help to cut the risk of diabetes.”

Just one cola per day is too much sugar

Overall the study found that each 5% increase in the daily amount of calories from sweetened beverages was associated with an 18% increase in diabetes. Soft drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi, sweetened milk beverages like milkshakes, and artificially sweetened beverages like diet sodas were all associated with approximately a 22% increase in diabetes.

Surprising findings from the study:

  • Those who consumed one artificially sweetened diet drink each day showed a 14% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Drinking fruit juice, which is high in naturally occurring fruit sugars, did not increase the likelihood of developing diabetes.
  • Unsweetened tea or coffee had an inverse association with diabetes (the incidence of type 2 diabetes decreased).

However, the association with artificially sweetened beverages lost statistical significance when the researchers took weight into account, suggesting that “those who are overweight or obese and at higher risk of chronic disease consume a higher amount of [artificially sweetened beverages] than those at lower risk.”

Public health experts recommend that a typical adult diet - about 2,000 calories a day - should include no more than 130 calories from added sugar. If you drink just one 12-ounce can of Coca Cola Classic, with 140 calories, you'll exceed that limit.

"Our study adds further important evidence to the recommendation from the World Health Organization to limit the intake of free sugars in our diet," states Dr. Forouhi. "Replacing soft drinks and sweetened-milk beverages with [artificially sweetened beverages] did not reduce type 2 diabetes incidence, but drinking water or unsweetened tea or coffee as alternatives to soft drinks and sweetened milk beverages lowered the incidence of type 2 diabetes significantly. These novel findings are of clinical and public health relevance,... [as] reducing consumption of sweet beverages... and promoting drinking water and unsweetened tea or coffee as alternatives may help curb the escalating diabetes epidemic."

Published in diabetes

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