Drinking more than two sugary or artificially sweetened soft drinks per day greatly increases the risk of diabetes, according to newly published research from Sweden.
Scientists examined sweetened drink consumption, while assessing people with an uncommon form of diabetes known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).
LADA has features of type 1 diabetes, where the body’s own immune cells destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
But unlike type 1 diabetes, which normally develops in childhood, in LADA the cell destruction is much slower.
Drinking more than two sweetened drinks per day was linked with being roughly twice as likely to have diabetes.
However, the nature of the experiment means that this study cannot prove that sweetened drinks alone have directly caused these conditions.
There is nonetheless and interesting and informative correlation asserted by the Swedish researchers.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and other institutions in Sweden and Finland.
Funding was provided by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, AFA Insurance and the Swedish Diabetes Association.
The European Journal of Endocrinology published the work, and it is freely available online.
Researchers conclude that “high intake of sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of LADA. The observed relationship resembled that with type 2 diabetes, suggesting common pathways possibly involving insulin resistance”.
However, high BMI and other poor lifestyle choices were also linked with the conditions discovered in the study.
The findings generally suggest that this rare form of diabetes shares characteristics with the generally better understood type 2.
Certainly the consumption of sugary drinks is something that the government has attempted to legislate against, with the introduction of a sugar tax.
However, many consider this pointless, as it fails to address the problem directly, and has also failed previously in other nations.
Meanwhile, one expert from the University of Cambridge also considers another possibility that increased drink consumption could be due to increased thirst before diabetes is diagnosed.
While the researchers attempted to take account of consumption of water and other drinks as a general marker of thirst, the design means this observation cannot be discounted.
Since 1996, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has risen from 1.4 million to 3.5 million.
Taking into account the number of people likely to be living with undiagnosed diabetes, the number of people living with diabetes in the UK is over 4 million.
Diabetes prevalence in the UK is estimated to rise to 5 million by 2025.
Type 2 diabetes in particular has been growing at the particularly high rate and is now one of the world’s most common long-term health conditions.