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Will I get diabetes if I drink soft drinks every day?

Question: Will I get diabetes if I drink soft drinks every day?

Answer: Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The most prevalent form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, can be inherited and triggered by unhealthy lifestyle habits. Physical inactivity, obesity, plus a high-fat, calorie dense, and nutritionally poor diet are recipes for raising diabetes risk.

Whether soft drink intake by itself raises diabetes risk independent of other factors or not is quite plausible. The Nurses’ Health Study explored the soft drink–diabetes link by following over 90,000 women for 8 years. Women who said they had one or more servings a day of sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch had nearly double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who rarely drank the beverages.

Another study on 59,000 African American women for 6 years also concluded that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit drinks raised the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Critics argue that soft drinks are merely guilty by association. People who drink soft drinks may be more likely to be sedentary and gain weight. They surmise, therefore, that obesity is the real culprit instead.

One can of regular soda contains about 150 calories and roughly 10 teaspoons of sugar. If one were to drink one regular soft drink can a day and not vary the rest of his or her calorie intake, one would gain up to 15 pounds in 1 year.

Other experts believe, however, that it may be more than just the calories that are wrong with soda drinking. Fluids may not satisfy hunger as well as solid food—even if the drink has a whole chunk of calories. You may not feel as full with fluids compared to solid foods, so you may tend to eat more. In addition, the sudden rush of sugar into the bloodstream with a can of soda may also trigger a biochemical cascade as blood levels of sugar and insulin yo-yo wildly up and down.

Some recent studies also suggest that the body may metabolize fructose (the form of sugar used in soda) differently compared to glucose. Fructose-sweetened drinks increased levels of blood triglyceride (a form of fat), uric acid, and the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin more than glucose-sweetened ones. Higher fat levels in the blood can raise risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

These studies have, therefore, prompted policy-makers in other countries to mandate that vending machines offer healthier alternatives to sugar-sweetened drinks.

Conceivably, yes, you can increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes over time if you drank sugary drinks daily, particularly if you have the genes for it, you don’t exercise, and become obese. So follow the healthy eating pyramid if you want to stay clear of diabetes and other diseases. Take sugary drinks, sweets, red meat, and bad fats sparingly.

Load up on vegetables, whole grains, and good fat instead. And exercise at least 30 minutes daily. The next time you get thirsty, reach for nature’s best beverage instead—a nice tall glass of water

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