Sugar-sweetened beverages

Twelve ounces a day increase the risk of diabetes

11/28/2014, 6 a.m.
Researchers have found that just one 12-ounce serving a day of a sugar-sweetened beverage can increase the risk of developing ...
Source: Boston Public Health Commission

Like many women, Samara Gaul, a resident of Dorchester, had put on some extra weight after giving birth to her two children. She did her best to change her eating habits and to get more exercise, but she eventually learned that much of that extra weight was likely due not just to what she was eating, but also to what she was drinking. Sugar-sweetened beverages were the culprit.

That little bit of knowledge changed everything.

“When I learned that a can of fruit punch or soda a day can add five pounds of fat to your body each year, I was flabbergasted,” said Samara, an administrative assistant at the Boston Public Health Commission. Sugar-sweetened juice drinks and teas were a big part of Samara’s life, and all that sugar was adding up. Over a three-year period she had gained 45 pounds.

And the added weight was not the only cost she was paying for drinking sugary beverages. Samara found out that she was at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

All that added sugar was taking a toll.

A 2010 study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health underscored the harmful effects of sugar, not just in weight gain, but also in contributing to diabetes. The study found that people who consume sugary drinks regularly – 12 ounces or more per day – have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, when compared to people who rarely consume such drinks.



Source: Boston Public Health Commission

Source: Boston Public Health Commission

While consumption of too much added sugar from any type of food can contribute to obesity and diabetes, sugary drinks are the largest single source of sugar in Americans’ diets. This includes soda, sports drinks, sweetened tea, coffee and energy drinks. The American Heart Association estimates that 100,000 cases of diabetes over the past decade were caused by the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages delivers a one-two punch to your health. With no nutritional value, they’re full of ‘empty calories’ that lead to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for diabetes. And the consumption of ‘liquid sugar’ without some fiber to slow down its digestion causes a quick rise in blood glucose (blood sugar). Our bodies produce a hormone called insulin that converts blood glucose into energy for our cells. But the repeated spikes in blood glucose caused by one or two sugary drinks a day can disrupt the body’s ability to produce insulin, leading to insulin intolerance and eventually diabetes. Your blood glucose peaks and valleys can also feel like an energy yo-yo, making you feel sluggish when your blood glucose declines.

According to recent surveys, 20 percent of adults in Boston report having one or more sugar-sweetened beverage a day, and the rates are higher for black (29 percent) and Latino (29 percent) residents compared to white (13 percent) residents.

While overall self-report of diabetes among adults in Boston was almost 9 percent in 2013, these rates were also higher for black (14 percent) and Latino (13 percent) residents compared to 5 percent for white residents.