Diabetes affects more than three million people in France, 90% of whom suffer from Type II diabetes. While it has been established that consumption of sweetened drinks is associated with an increased risk of obesity and of Type II diabetes, the effect of ‘diet’ or ‘light’ sweetened soft drinks on cardio-metabolic diseases is less well-known. The researchers assessed the link between the consumption of sweetened soft drinks and the risk of developing type II diabetes. The study was conducted on 66,118 French women cohort who were monitored for 14 years.
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 litre per week and 59% greater for the consumption of 1.5 litres 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.
How can these results be explained?
Several mechanisms can explain the increased risk of diabetes associated with high consumption of sweetened soft drinks:
- Firstly, in terms of calories, these drinks are no substitute for solid food because sweet soft drinks are not sufficiently satiating (so the calories in sweet soft drinks are added to the calories in solid food). Furthermore, the sugars contained in sweetened drinks produce an insulin peak reaction and repeated peaks of this kind can result in greater insulin resistance.
- 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 glycæmia and consequently a rise in the insulin level in comparison to that produced by sucrose.
The consumption of sweetened soft drinks increases the risk of being overweight, itself a risk factor in diabetes. In their study, researchers observed, however, that the effect produced by high consumption of sweet drinks was independent of corpulence in women.
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 II diabetes. This increased risk is all the greater for drinks of the ‘light’ or ‘diet’ type. Additional studies of the effects of ‘light’ or ‘diet’ soft drinks are necessary to confirm this result.