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The Link Between Sugary Drinks and Early Death Risk for Type 2 Diabetics

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Sugary Drinks and Risk of Death

The consumption of sugary drinks has long been linked to various health risks, such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that sugary drinks can also increase the risk of premature death among people with Type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in The BMJ, analyzed health data from over 12,000 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The researchers looked at the consumption of different beverages and their association with all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality.

The findings showed that high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) was associated with an elevated risk of premature death and incidence of cardiovascular disease among people with Type 2 diabetes. Every additional daily serving of a SSB was associated with an 8 percent higher all-cause mortality. Inversely, all-cause mortality and incidence of and mortality from cardiovascular disease decreased among those who regularly consumed healthier beverages such as coffee, tea, low-fat cow’s milk, and/or plain water.

These findings are particularly significant for people with Type 2 diabetes, who already face a higher risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease compared to the general population. The study highlights the importance of healthy beverage consumption for individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Key Takeaway

A recent study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers found that individuals with Type 2 diabetes who consume high amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have an increased risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, those who regularly consume healthier beverages such as coffee, tea, low-fat cow’s milk, and/or plain water have a lower risk of dying prematurely.

Lead author Qi Sun, associate professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, emphasized the importance of being selective about the types of beverages people with diabetes consume. He suggested that switching from sugary drinks to healthier beverages, such as water, tea, or coffee, can bring significant health benefits.

Switching from sugar-sweetened beverages to healthier beverages will bring health benefits.

Qi Sun, lead author

Replacing a daily serving of a sugary drink with one serving of coffee was associated with an 18 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. Tea was associated with a 16 percent and 24 percent lower risk, respectively, while plain water was associated with a 16 percent and 20 percent lower risk. Low-fat cow’s milk was associated with a 12 percent and 19 percent lower risk. Drinking ASBs was also associated with healthier outcomes, but less so: replacing one daily serving of a SSB with an ASB was associated with an 8 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 15 percent lower risk in cardiovascular disease mortality.

Here are John Goodman's weight loss tips:

  1. Make the choice to lose weight for your own sake and health.
  2. Cut out processed foods, as they contribute to weight gain.
  3. Focus on consuming wholesome, nutritious foods.
  4. Incorporate regular exercise into your routine, aiming for at least 30 minutes every day.
  5. Change your perspective on eating and weight loss; view food as fuel for your body.
  6. Be patient and set realistic goals for weight loss.
  7. Customize your approach to weight loss, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
  8. Put effort into exercise and maintain a healthy diet.
  9. Quit or reduce alcohol consumption.
  10. Monitor your progress and adjust goals if necessary to stay on track.
  11. Stay committed to your healthy lifestyle adjustments, even if you face plateaus or setbacks.

By following these tips, you can start your weight loss journey and work towards achieving your health goals. Remember to be patient, stay consistent, and prioritize your well-being.

The Study

The study’s co-authors included Le Ma, Yang Hu, Derrick Alperet, Vasanti Malik, JoAnn Manson, Eric Rimm, and Frank Hu, all from the Harvard Chan School.

The study looked specifically at the consumption of different beverages among patients with Type 2 diabetes. While many prior studies have linked beverage consumption and health outcomes such as cardiometabolic health, weight change, and mortality, those studies have primarily been among the general population. This study is unique in its focus on the impact of beverage consumption on people with Type 2 diabetes.

The researchers analyzed an average of 18.5 years of health data from 9,252 women participating in the Nurse’s Health Study and 3,519 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, all of whom had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at baseline or at some point during the study. Every two to four years, the participants reported on how often they consumed SSBs (including sodas, fruit punch, and lemonade), ASBs, fruit juice, coffee, tea, low-fat cow’s milk, full-fat cow’s milk, and plain water.

Beverages are an important component of our diet, and the quality can vary hugely.

Qi Sun, Lead Author

The findings of this study are consistent with prior research that has linked high consumption of sugary drinks with a higher risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease. However, this study provides new insights into the specific risks for people with Type 2 diabetes and the potential benefits of replacing sugary drinks with healthier alternatives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and approximately 90-95% of those individuals have Type 2 diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels, which can lead to a range of health complications, including nerve damage, kidney damage, and cardiovascular disease.

The consumption of sugary drinks can exacerbate these complications, as SSBs have a high glycemic index and can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Additionally, SSBs are often high in calories and can contribute to weight gain and obesity, which are also risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What Does it Mean for Diabetics?

The findings of this study are significant for healthcare professionals and individuals with Type 2 diabetes. Healthcare professionals can use these findings to inform their recommendations for healthy beverage consumption among patients with Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, individuals with Type 2 diabetes can use this information to make informed decisions about their beverage choices and potentially reduce their risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease.

It is important to note that while the study focused on people with Type 2 diabetes, the findings have broader implications for the general population. Sugary drinks have been linked to a range of health risks, and reducing their consumption can bring significant health benefits for individuals of all ages and health statuses.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health highlights the significant health risks associated with high consumption of sugary drinks for people with Type 2 diabetes. However, the study also provides important insights into the potential benefits of replacing sugary drinks with healthier alternatives such as water, tea, and coffee. Healthcare professionals and individuals with Type 2 diabetes can use these findings to inform their recommendations and decisions regarding healthy beverage consumption. Additionally, the findings have broader implications for the general population and highlight the importance of reducing sugary drink consumption for overall health and well-being.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.

Caroline Buckee

Caroline Flannigan is an epidemiologist. She is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and is the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

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