Association found in African-American women

Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened fruit and soft drinks is associated with an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes among African-American women, according to a study.

Using data from the Black Women’s Health Study, a prospective follow-up study of 59,000 African-American women, researchers at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center identified 2,713 cases of diabetes that developed between 1995 and 2005. Higher intake of sugar-sweetened beverages correlated with higher incidence of diabetes.

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Compared with women who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage per month, those who drank two or more sugar-sweetened fruit drinks per day had a 31% increased incidence of diabetes, researchers reported in Archives of Internal Medicine (2008;168:1487-1492). Fruit drinks included powdered fruit-flavored beverages, fortified fruit drinks, and juices other than orange or grapefruit. Women who drank two or more sugar-sweetened soft drinks had a 24% increased incidence.

The association of diabetes with fruit-drink consumption was independent of BMI, but the association with soft-drink consumption was almost entirely mediated by BMI, the investigators observed.

As fruit drinks tend to be more caloric than other sweetened soft drinks, “reducing consumption or switching to diet sodas is a concrete step that women may find easier to achieve than other approaches to weight loss,” they noted.

Ironically, the study points out, fruit drinks are marketed as a smart beverage choice, and the research implies women are buying that concept. “To some extent, soft-drink consumption was correlated with unhealthy behaviors and fruit-drink consumption with healthy behaviors.” For example, fruit-drink use was associated with exercise, fiber intake, and low-glycemic diets.

“The public should be made aware that these fruit drinks are not a healthy alternative to soft drinks,” said lead author Julie R. Palmer, ScD, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University.