Dump your daily sugary drink to cut your diabetes risk

A new study suggests a strong link between type 2 diabetes and drinking sugary drinks.

09 June 2015
by Karen Nel

Type 2 diabetes typically affects those who are overweight, but a new study suggests that the consumption of too many sugary drinks could also be a major risk factor, regardless of your body weight. The study by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK found a strong link between the consumption of sugary drinks and diabetes. Their findings, reported in the journal Diabetologia, were based on the food diaries of 25 000 British adults over a period of ten years.

The study found that the more sugary drinks or flavoured milk people consumed, the higher their risk was of developing diabetes in the long-term even if they weren’t overweight. In fact, for every extra sugary drink that those studied consumed each day, their risk of developing diabetes increased by a weighty 22 percent.

You’re overdosing on sugar

One of the major dangers of sugary drinks is that it’s easy to forget exactly how much sugar they contain. An average can of gas cooldrink contains 40g (8 teaspoons) of sugar, while a 350ml serving of flavoured milk contains 35g (7 teaspoons of sugar), says Cape Town dietitian Emily Innes.

The other problem with sugary drinks is that they are loaded with what is known as “free sugar”. Unlike fresh fruit – which contains fibre to slow down the release of the sugar in the fruit – sugary drinks, including fruit juice, are filled with sugar which goes straight into your blood stream.

So what exactly happens inside your body when you drink too much sugar? “Your blood sugar levels spike immediately after you consume a sugary drink. Your body then needs to release a hormone called insulin to bring your sugar levels back to normal,” says Innes. “If this happens often, eventually your cells become tired of responding to insulin and you become insulin resistant. This means your cells are only whipped into action when there is a huge amount of insulin in your bloodstream. Eventually your pancreas (the organ that makes insulin) may become exhausted and unable to make enough insulin. Then your blood sugar levels remain high all the time, leading to type 2 diabetes.”

Smarter options

So what should we be drinking? According to Innes, artificially sweetened diet cool drinks aren’t the answer. “They don’t contain sugar, so they won’t raise your blood sugar levels the same way that sugary drinks do. However, they do contain other chemicals, such as artificial sweeteners, which are not beneficial for our health,” she says. 

Water and herbal teas are the healthiest options, but they can seem rather dull in comparison with all the more flavoursome options. “Water doesn’t have to be bland,” says Innes. “On a hot day, drink water with lots of ice and add slices of strawberries, cucumber, mint leaves and ginger. When it’s cold, try hot water with lemon and ginger,” she says. Adding a cinnamon stick to a cup of tea can also add some sweetness without the need for sugar.

Likewise, opt for unsweetened dairy products, such as plain milk or plain yoghurt. “Some of the sugar in flavoured dairy products is naturally occurring milk sugar (lactose), but the majority is added sugar,” she says. “Rather drink a glass of plain milk, or make a smoothie with plain yoghurt and chopped fresh fruit.”

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics will help you prevent, identify and manage diabetes with their wide range of screening tests and health assessments.

These include:

  • Glucose Screening with Consultation
  • Urine Test (tests for blood, protein and glucose)
  • Blood Pressure Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Foot Screening Consultation (to check for diabetes-related foot problems)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan).

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics. 

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: Diabetes Super Section