Findings of the study, which was a meta-analysis or analysis of 11 previous studies, were published in the November 1 Diabetes Care issue.
All in all, the studies involved data from 310,819 patients, where dietary intake was assessed through questionnaires.
According to lead author Vasanti Malik, a research fellow in the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition, the strongest link was found in the largest diabetes study so far, which followed more than 91,000 American women, 24 to 44 years old, for eight years.
Researchers of that study found that even after researchers adjusted for weight gain, the link between diabetes and sugary drinks was still strong.
The study doesn’t come as a surprise, since soda means sugar overload: One 12-ounce soda typically has nine teaspoons of sugar and 140 calories.
Research has shown that adults and children who drink beverages high in sugar regularly tend to have a higher calorie intake overall and weigh more. As weight increases, so does the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Diet drinks aren’t better
Daily diet soda drinkers didn’t fare any better.
A new study done jointly by researchers from the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and the Columbia University Medical Center also showed that people who drank diet soft drinks every day had an increased risk of experiencing stroke, heart attack and death from these conditions.
For this study, researchers scoured through the data of 2,564 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study, which was designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis in a multiethnic urban population. They then analyzed the relationship between both diet and regular soft drink consumption and heart disease.
The researchers looked at how often each participant drank soft drinks, whether the beverages were diet or regular—and the number of strokes, heart attacks and heart-disease related deaths that occurred among the participants over a 10-year period.
The researchers found that people who drank diet soft drinks everyday were 43 percent more likely to have had a stroke or heart attack, or died of heart disease, than those who did not drink diet soda.
The conclusions were made taking into account pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes,” says study researcher Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. The findings were published Jan. 26 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Previous research has also linked diet soda with a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.
Soda tax—a solution?
In the last few years, obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and even in many developing countries.
Aside from the immeasurable suffering brought by the ailments caused by obesity, health costs related to obesity reach about US$147 billion a year—almost a tenth of all medical costs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2009.
Health experts have noted that the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks is a contributing factor to obesity.
A growing number of countries worldwide are considering extra taxes in order to drive down sales of “unhealthy” products, which contain a lot of saturated fat or sugar. France recently passed such a tax, and the U.K. is mulling over it.
Imposing a 10 percent “fat tax” on sugary drinks would help tackle soaring rates of obesity, according to research by international experts published last December (2011) in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN).
The study four co-authors, including Dr. Susan Jebb, an eminent nutrition specialist who has been the British government’s main adviser on obesity since 2007, said a price hike would cut consumption of heavily sugared drinks, which have been blamed for obesity, and prompt consumers to switch to healthier alternatives. The Harvard School of Public Health did a U.S. counterpart of the study.