April 27, 2011

First and foremost, we must recognize and acknowledge that our mothers and grandmothers were right: don’t drink so much soda and have water instead!

A recent study has provided evidence that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, fruit punches, lemonades, fruit drinks)  is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in men.

Diabetes is a chronic disease involving the manner in which the body makes or uses insulin. Insulin is important in transporting glucose (sugar) into cells in the body, which is used for energy. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is associated with high levels of glucose in the blood. With type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond correctly to insulin (called insulin resistance), causing fat, liver, and muscle cells to not respond as they should to insulin. Because the blood sugar does not get into cells to be stored for energy, abnormally high levels of sugar build up in the blood (which is called hyperglycemia). High levels of blood sugar often trigger the pancreas to produce more and more insulin, but it is not enough to keep up with the body’s demand. Obese individuals are more likely to develop diabetes because fat in the body interferes with the body’s ability to use insulin. People with type 2 diabetes may have symptoms such as blurred vision, fatigue, frequent or slow-healing infections, increased thirst, increased appetite, and increased urination. The primary treatment for type 2 diabetes is exercise and diet, and medications if exercise and diet are not sufficiently effective. Long-term diabetics  may suffer serious problems with their eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and feet.  Diabetes also affects the body’s immune system, decreasing the body’s ability to fight infection, which may allow minor infections to get worse quickly and may lead to the death of skin and other tissues. People with diabetes are also more likely to have foot problems that must be carefully monitored and treated.

The recent study indicates that you may be able to reduce your risk of  type 2 diabetes by 17% by replacing a serving of sugar-sweetened beverage with a cup of coffee (the men in the study who drank the most sugar-sweetened sodas (an average of one serving per day) were 16% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than men who did not drink sugar-sweetened beverages). Interestingly, the study appears to contradict prior studies that have linked artificially sweetened beverages (diet soda and other diet drinks) with type 2 diabetes (it may be the differences in people who consume artificially sweetened beverages rather than the beverages themselves that are related to type 2 diabetes) . 

Consumption of sugar-sweentened beverages such as soda have long been known to be associated with other health risks, such as obesity (high body mass index) from the extra calories and heart problems. Now, a new study has provided evidence that they may also elevate blood pressure.

For every sugar-sweetened beverage consumed, systolic pressure (the upper number) was raised by an average of 1.6 mm Hg and diastolic pressure (the lower number) was raised by an average of 0.8 mm Hg. The numbers may seem small until you consider how many servings of sugar-sweetened beverages are consumed on a daily basis by many people. The extra calories themselves may be contributing to the increase in blood pressure, a relationship between the sugars in the beverages and sodium consumption in the diet may also be contributing, and the glucose and fructose (sugars) in the beverages may be affecting the blood vessels. It is suggested that controlling not only salt intake but also sugar intake may have beneficial effects on blood pressure.

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