There’s danger lurking in sugary drinks

Try water instead – you’ll lose weight, save money and have a long happy life

People who six days a week drink a 12-ounce bottle of coke or other soda – a generous, 355-millilitre glassful of sugar-sweetened beverage, or thereabouts – are putting themselves seriously at risk of contracting pre-diabetes, with the looming possibility, if their lifestyle doesn’t change, of moving on to full-scale, type 2 diabetes and the ravages it can create.

The high sugar-sweetened beverage intake of such habitual drinkers gradually raises sugar levels in their blood as, over time, the body become less and less able to break down the sugar, transforming it into body energy.

Such was the message in a mega-study on sugar-sweetened beverages organized by Tufts University in Medford, Mass. and reported online last month by health news outlets in the United States.

A mega-study is an examination, built on existing, often longitudinal, research papers, to bring to light more information in a specific area. In this case, the Tufts team analyzed 14 years of data on 1,685 middle-aged adults, collected in mainly longitudinal, government-funded, lifestyles and clinical studies. The researchers determined that the people grouped as the most serious drinkers were 46 per cent more likely to contract pre-diabetes than a second set of respondents; these individuals were the least married,

if at all, to sugar-sweetened drinks. With factors like weight and activity levels weighed in, the risk variance dropped to 27 per cent.

The findings were significant in that they displayed for the first time an association between sugar-sweetened beverages and a condition – pre-diabetic – that is for the medical profession the major predictor of type 2 diabetes. And, adds Tufts University scientist Nicola McKeown, senior researcher with the project, their findings also show the world how regular sugar intake can batter a person’s body on the cellular level.

Sugar-sweetened beverages contain large amounts of sugar, most of it from high-fructose corn syrup which consists of 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose. As Dr. McKeown explains, cells require the insulin to break down sugar into the energy the body needs. But too much sugar in the diet brings on an excess of insulin, over-exposing the body’s cells to the insulin hormone.

“This constant spike in blood glucose over time leads to the cells becoming unable to properly respond,” she says. They begin to resist the insulin. At that point, blood sugar levels rise to levels that are damaging to every major system in the body.

The sweetener in question is known as added sugar. Unlike naturally occurring sugars, it is added to foods and beverages during industrial processing, as well as being used in home cooking and at our dinner tables.

And one of its larger presences is in the sugar-sweetened beverages – colas, sodas, fruit juices, punches — served across this planet. They shows every sign of being linked to a startling variety of health problems – coronary heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, insulin resistance, triglycerides, inflammation, intra-abdominal fat accumulation and many more. Extensive, quality research on the health problems that plague us is sorely needed.

We should in turn, of course, try to pay attention. Meanwhile, to err on the side of caution, limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. It may save you a lot of grief in the future.

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