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Higher Risk of Diabetes with Diet Drinks

A study with more than 66,000 women confirms a link between….

The analysis performed on 66,188 women monitored for 14 years in the E3N cohort confirms a link between sweet soft drinks and type 2 diabetes and reveals for the first time that, contrary to received wisdom, there is a higher risk of diabetes from so-called ‘diet’ or ‘light’ drinks than from ‘normal’ sweetened soft drinks.

While it has been established that consumption of sweetened drinks is associated with an increased risk of obesity and of Type 2 diabetes, the effect of ‘diet’ or ‘light’ sweetened soft drinks on cardio-metabolic diseases is less well-known. INSERM researchers assessed the link between the consumption of sweetened soft drinks and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The results show that women who drink ‘light’ or ‘diet’ sweetened soft drinks drink more of them than those who drink ‘normal’ sweet soft drinks (2.8 glasses per week as against an average of 1.6 glasses per week respectively).

Yet when an equal quantity is consumed, the risk of contracting diabetes is higher for ‘light’ or ‘diet’ drinks than for ‘non-light’ or ‘non-diet’ drinks. The risk of developing diabetes is 15% greater with the consumption of half a liter per week and 59% greater for the consumption of 1.5 liters per week, respectively. Is this risk mainly associated with ‘light’ or ‘diet’ soft drinks? In order to find this out, the researchers also investigated the effects on the human organism of 100% natural squeezed fruit juices and their study found no association with a risk of diabetes.

Several mechanisms such as increased calories and an increase in postprandial blood sugars can explain the increased risk of diabetes associated with high consumption of sweetened soft drinks.

With respect, in particular, to ‘light’ or ‘diet’ drinks, the relationship with diabetes can be explained partially by a greater craving for sugar in general by female consumers of this type of soft drink. Furthermore, aspartame, one of the main artificial sweeteners used today, causes an increase in glycemia and consequently a rise in the insulin level in comparison to that produced by sucrose.

In conclusion, it has been shown for the first time in a French population that high consumption of sweet soft drinks (both normal and ‘light’) is associated with a high increase in the risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes. This increased risk is all the greater for drinks of the ‘light’ or ‘diet’ type.

Additional studies on the effects of ‘light’ sweetened soft drinks are needed to corroborate the result.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Feb. 2013