Dropping sugary drinks cuts diabetes risk

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Swapping a daily sugary drink for water or unsweetened tea or coffee can lower the risk of diabetes by up to 25 per cent, research has suggested.

A study by the University of Cambridge also found that for every 5 per cent increase of a person’s total energy intake provided by sugar-sweetened drinks, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes may increase by 18 per cent.

Researchers analysed a separate large-scale study of more than 25,000 people aged 40 to 79 living in Norfolk who recorded everything they ate and drank. During around 11 years of follow-up, 847 participants were diagnosed with new-onset type 2 diabetes.

The team looked at whether they drank sugar-sweetened beverages (such as fizzy drinks and squashes), sweetened-milk beverages (like milkshakes, flavoured milks and hot chocolate), sweetened tea or coffee, artificially sweetened drinks and fruit juice, and found that nearly all participants consumed at least one sweet beverage, with soft drinks the most commonly consumed.

They found that soft drinks and sweetened-milk beverages were all associated with a greater incidence of diabetes, but artificially sweetened beverages, sweetened tea or coffee and fruit juice were not.

They estimated that replacing one soft drink or sweetened-milk beverage a day with a serving of water or unsweetened tea or coffee reduced the incidence of diabetes by 14 per cent to 25 per cent.

“Our findings suggest that reducing consumption of sweet beverages, in particular soft drinks and sweetened-milk beverages, and promoting drinking water and unsweetened tea or coffee as alternatives may help curb the escalating diabetes epidemic,” the authors concluded.

Analysis of the food diaries led them to find that consumers of sweetened tea or coffee and sweetened-milk beverages were more likely to be from a lower social class and have generally less healthy diets. Fruit juice consumers were of higher social class and had generally healthier diets.

It is estimated that at least 3.2 million people in the UK have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to increasing levels of obesity, unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise.