Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Increase Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes

Researchers reviewed scientific investigation on the health effects of consuming sugary beverages and found the preponderance of the evidence implicated the drinks in increasing the likelihood of common medical conditions.

Nov. 8, 2017
By Mary West

Recent News

A review of stud­ies indi­cated that reg­u­lar con­sump­tion of sug­ary bev­er­ages, such as juice and soda, raised the risk of dia­betes, high blood pres­sure and other health mal­adies.

These effects stem from the link between the drinks and meta­bolic syn­drome, which is a group of risk fac­tors that ele­vate the chances of incur­ring stroke, heart dis­ease and dia­betes, accord­ing to the Hormone Health Network.

The mes­sage is to be care­ful regard­ing the amount of sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­ages taken in and to be mind­ful of sugar con­tent.- M. Faadiel Essop, Stellenbosch University

The risk fac­tors include decreased high-den­sity lipopro­teins (HDL) or good cho­les­terol, an expanded waist­line, high lev­els of blood fat called triglyc­erides, high-fast­ing blood sugar and ele­vated blood pres­sure.

Sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­age con­sump­tion is steadily ris­ing among all age groups world­wide,” said the review’s senior author, M. Faadiel Essop, of Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in a press release. Our analy­sis revealed that most epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies strongly show that fre­quent intake of these bev­er­ages con­tributes to the onset of the meta­bolic syn­drome, dia­betes and hyper­ten­sion.”

Metabolic syn­drome and dia­betes are respon­si­ble for 19 mil­lion deaths each year, reports the World Health Association (WHO). Therefore, because of the asso­ci­a­tion of sugar con­sump­tion to these con­di­tions, the pub­lic should take steps to reduce the intake of this food that is ubiq­ui­tous in the west­ern diet.


In the review pub­lished in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, the authors exam­ined 36 stud­ies that dealt with the effects of sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­age con­sump­tion on the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem and sugar metab­o­lism. All of the stud­ies were con­ducted within the past decade.

While some stud­ies didn’t sup­port the con­nec­tion to meta­bolic syn­drome, most of them did. Many of the stud­ies involved par­tic­i­pants who drank more than five sug­ary bev­er­ages per week.

The most sur­pris­ing find­ings involved the small amount of con­sump­tion tied to adverse health effects. Studies that explored the tie between diet and dia­betes found two serv­ings per week were linked to a higher rate of dia­betes.

In an inter­view with Olive Oil Times, Essop said, I would inter­pret the results on con­sum­ing two serv­ings per week with cau­tion. There are sev­eral lim­i­ta­tions in the study e.g. issue of con­found­ing fac­tors and self-assess­ments (in some cases) of the par­tic­i­pants. Another point to con­sider is that rel­a­tive risk does not prove causal­ity. For the lat­ter, one would need to prove causal­ity by ran­dom­ized con­trol tri­als.”

The exact amount of sugar intake that increases the risk of dia­betes and meta­bolic syn­drome isn’t known at this point. Nonetheless, med­ical experts are united in their belief that con­sum­ing large amounts of sugar poses a threat to health. How much sugar intake per day is con­sid­ered too much? Essop pro­vides some guid­ance below.

Our pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies (unpub­lished) show that rel­a­tively mod­er­ate sug­ary bev­er­age intake does not elicit dia­betes. However, this does not detract from the big­ger pic­ture that excess sugar intake is harm­ful. The WHO rec­om­mends no more than 9 tea­spoons per day for men and 6 tea­spoons per day for women.

This is an issue to focus upon, as a typ­i­cal sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­age like a can of Coca-Cola would con­tain around 9 tea­spoons of sugar. Even of more con­cern, a Starbucks Frappuccino would con­tain 18 tea­spoons of sugar! So the mes­sage is to be care­ful regard­ing the amount of sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­ages taken in and to be mind­ful of sugar con­tent.

Prolonged intake of higher amounts of sugar can con­tribute to dia­betes onset with time. Of note, low­er­ing sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­age and sugar intake should form part of a multi-pronged approach to liv­ing health­ier that includes increased exer­cise, a bal­anced diet and lower stress lev­els.”

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