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Sweetened Fruit Drinks Increase Diabetes Risk

July 29, 2008

Although sweetened fruit drinks promise a healthier alternative to non-diet soft drinks, researchers say they are just as likely to cause weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes.

“The public should be made aware that these drinks are not a healthy alternative to soft drinks with regard to risk of type 2 diabetes,” Julie Palmer and colleagues at Boston University wrote in their report, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. It’s closely linked to obesity and has become more prevalent worldwide.

Researchers studied 44,000 black women in the United States who were checked from 1995 through 2005.

The research team said, women drank two or more non-diet soft drinks a day had a 24 percent increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those in the study who drank fewer than one regular soft drink per month.

However, the study also found women who drank two or more sweetened fruit drinks per day had a 31 percent increased risk compared to those who drank fewer than one such fruit drink a month.

Researchers said diet soft drinks, grapefruit juice, and orange juice were not linked to a higher diabetes risk.

Pure orange and grapefruit juices contain naturally occurring sugars that may have a different metabolic effect or may be more likely to be consumed as part of a meal, the investigators said.

They found soft drinks and sweetened juices are often consumed between meals and may lead to snacking. An earlier study also surveyed thousands of white women and linked diabetes to both soft drinks and sweetened juices.

Another study published in the same journal found that eating fruits and vegetables seems to ward off type 2 diabetes. It’s thought fruits and vegetables prevent obesity or providing protective nutrients, including antioxidants. However, a third study found that a low-fat diet does not seem to change the risk of diabetes.

“The common denominator that appears clear is that calories trump everything,” Dr. Mark Feinglos of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina wrote in a commentary in the same issue. “And certain nutrients, like high fructose corn syrup, make it easier to overeat,” he added.

“If you keep the calories low, you can probably eat almost anything, which is what the low-carb diets show us. Specific metabolic issues aside, an important reason that low-carb works is because you don’t eat a lot of calories.”

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