Drinking just one can of fizzy drink a day could increase the risk of developing life-threatening Type 2 diabetes.
Scientists have found that sugar-based calories, such as those found in fizzy drinks, are much more likely to cause the condition than the same number of calories from any other source.
For every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose by one per cent.
In contrast, an additional 150 calories of any type caused only a 0.1 per cent increase in the population’s diabetes rate, the researchers from Stanford University, the University of California-Berkley and the University of California-San Francisco found.
This is the first time that scientists have questioned the theory that eating too much of any food is what causes obesity and that the resulting obesity is what causes diabetes.
The researchers examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries during the past decade.
After accounting for obesity and a large array of other factors, they found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.
The study, which provides the first large-scale, population-based evidence for the idea that not all calories are equal from a diabetes-risk standpoint, will be published in the journal PLoS ONE.
‘It was quite a surprise,’ said Dr Sanjay Basu an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Centre and the study’s lead author.
He added: ‘We’re not diminishing the importance of obesity at all, but this data suggest that at a population level there are additional factors that contribute to diabetes risk besides obesity and total calorie intake, and that sugar appears to play a prominent role.’
In addition, diabetes rates dropped over time when sugar availability dropped, independent of changes to consumption of other calories and physical activity or obesity rates.
The findings do not prove that sugar causes diabetes, Dr Basu insists, but do provide real-world support for the body of previous trials that suggest sugar affects the liver and pancreas in ways that other types of foods or obesity do not.
The study comes just weeks after scientists found that even diet fizzy drinks can raise the risk of diabetes by 60 per cent.
A study of more than 66,000 women found those who drank artificially sweetened drinks were more likely to develop the disease than those who indulged in regular, ‘full fat’ versions.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fly in the face of conventional thinking that regular versions of fizzy drinks are always worse for our health.
‘Contrary to conventional thinking, the risk of diabetes is higher with “light” beverages compared with “regular” sweetened drinks,’ the researchers said.