Reducing your intake of sugary drinks by 1 serving a day may lower diabetes risk by at least 10%

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Researchers from the U.S. and China suggest that drinking a serving of water, coffee or tea in place of a sugary beverage may lower Type 2 diabetes risk by up to 10 percent.

In a paper published in the Diabetes Journal, they further revealed that swapping sodas and 100 percent fruit juices for diet sodas and artificially sweetened drinks did not seem to lessen diabetes risk.

These findings underscore the importance of decreasing sugar intake by replacing sugary drinks with healthier alternatives, according to lead author Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Healthier drinks for lower diabetes risk

Sugary drinks, or beverages sweetened with added sugars, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener and corn syrup, are one of the leading sources of added sugars in the American diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention6 in 10 youths and 5 in 10 adults from 2011 to 2014 consume a sugary drink on a given day.

Frequent intake is widely associated with diseases and disorders like heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. For that reason, experts recommend cutting back on sugary drinks for a healthy weight and diet. As the present also shows, doing so could further lower diabetes risk.

The researchers examined more than 20 years’ worth of data from over 192,000 adult men and women who participated in three long-term studies, the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study, Nurses’ Health Study and Nurses’ Health Study II.

They measured long-term changes in the participants’ sugary drink consumption based on their responses in food frequency questionnaires administered every four years.

After adjusting for variables such as body mass index, lifestyle habits and other dietary changes, the team found that replacing one daily serving of a sugary drink with water, coffee or tea was associated with a two to 10 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, increasing one’s total intake of sugary drinks by more than four ounces a day over a four-year period was associated with a 16 percent higher diabetes risk in the next four years. Meanwhile, increasing the intake of artificially sweetened beverages, which contain low-calorie sugar substitutes such as aspartame and sucralose, was associated with an 18 percent higher diabetes risk.

But the researchers noted that the latter finding should be interpreted with caution as the participants who were already at high risk of diabetes could have had switched from sugary beverages to diet drinks. In addition, they’re more likely to be screened for diabetes, so they’re diagnosed more rapidly.

Nonetheless, these findings collectively reinforce current recommendations to replace sugary drinks with non-caloric beverages free of artificial sweeteners, according to senior author Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


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