Adults who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages appear to be at a higher risk of both diabetes and obesity, according to new study findings from Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts.
The investigators found that women who sipped at least one sugary drink every day had an 83% higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes - the most common form of the disease, and which is linked to obesity - than women who said they had less than one such drink per month.
Moreover, women who increased their intake from less than one sugar-sweetened soft drink per week to at least one drink per day tended to gain more weight over a four-year period than women with any other beverage-sipping habit.
Women who drank large amounts of sweetened fruit punch also appeared to be at higher risk of both obesity and diabetes.
Previous research has also shown that kids who are heavy soda-drinkers have a higher risk of obesity, suggesting that sugary soft drinks put people in particular danger of weight gain.
Liquid calories, such as the sugars added to sodas and fruit punch, may not be processed in the brain in the same way that sugars in solid food are. This may prevent your body from letting you know you've had enough calories.
For instance, women who started to drink more sugary soft drinks during the study period did not compensate for the extra calories by eating less food. In fact, they tended to eat more.
Liquid calories are relatively new, anthropologically speaking, the researchers explained, and the human body may not have evolved to the point where it can equate calories from drinks with calories from food.
Between 1977 and 1997, soft drink consumption rose by 61% among adults, coinciding with an increase in both obesity and type 2 diabetes.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 90,000 women followed between 1991 and 1999, noting their weight diet, and whether they developed diabetes.
The link between soft drink habits, obesity and diabetes persisted even after the authors removed the influence of factors such as physical activity and fat intake.
Heavy fruit juice drinkers did not show a higher risk of obesity or diabetes. Fruit juice is sweetened with natural, not added, sugars, which may not pose the same risks as those found in soda. Juice also contains antioxidants that may counteract any negative effects of the natural sugars.
Sugar-sweetened soft drinks may also increase the risk of diabetes by encouraging weight gain. Such drinks increase sugar levels in the blood relatively quickly, which can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, a condition that often precedes type 2 diabetes.
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