Rethink Your Drink

Type 2 diabetes may be linked to sweetened drinks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You may want to think twice before you down that bottle of Coke.

A new study found that sugary drinks may be linked to type 2 diabetes — independent of obesity and other factors.

"Even if people have the same body weight or body size, higher consumption of sugar sweetened beverages by one serving per day was associated with 13 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes," said lead study author Fumiaki Imamura, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, in a press release.

Obesity has previously been linked to sugary beverage consumption. It has also been linked to type 2 diabetes.

This study, however, suggests that sugar sweetened drinks alone may lead to type 2 diabetes — even in patients without weight problems.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body is unable to control blood sugar levels due to an insulin resistance.

It's not known why insulin resistance develops, but both genetic and environmental factors — such as inactivity and obesity — appear to be involved.

“The pancreas sends out insulin to allow us to metabolize food into energy and nutrition for the cells in our body," said David Winter, MD, chief clinical officer, president and chairman of the board of Baylor Health Care System's HealthTexas Provider Network, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Protein and complex carbohydrates are slowly metabolized and require only moderate insulin output. Sugary drinks are rapidly absorbed and enter the blood stream quickly. This requires a large output of insulin from the pancreas, and this may be compromised by some pancreases.”

Dr. Winter added, "Sugary drinks consumed along with a meal are less taxing to the pancreas than when consumed alone.”

Dr. Imamura and team looked at 17 previous studies on a total of 38,253 patients with type 2 diabetes.

These patients were compared to see whether a habitual consumption of non-diet soft drinks and sugar sweetened fruit juices was linked to the condition.

Regardless of other factors, a link was found between them.

A link was also found between artificially sweetened soft drinks and fruit juice, but it was less pronounced.

According to Dr. Imamura and team — out of 20.9 million new cases of type 2 diabetes predicted in the US over the next 10 years — sugary drinks alone may be responsible for 1.8 million of them.

"Finally, if we see the US and UK together, more than 2 million diabetes cases are related to consumption of sugar sweetened beverages," Dr. Imamura said. "So, we hope this study stimulates future research and future debate or post-interventions to reduce people's consumption of sugar sweetened beverages."

This study was published July 21 in the journal The BMJ.

The Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.


Review Date: 
July 21, 2015
Last Updated:
July 28, 2015