Soda: Diabetes in a Can?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Aren’t sensationalist titles fun? While yes that might be a bit of a stretch, it really isn’t too far off.

In November of 2010 in the journal Diabetes Care there was a study published that pretty much made such a declaration. In the study, involving over 300,000 people, they found that drinking only one or two sugary drinks per day increased your risk of developing diabetes by 26%!

Surprisingly to some, this risk was apparent regardless of bodyweight. Just because you are thin does not mean you are healthy or not at risk for diseases like diabetes.

This also brings me to another point about all of those Naked and Odwalla “protein shakes” and fruit smoothie concoctions. Would I put them in the same class as soda? No not entirely as they do contain a wee bit of fiber, some vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients and antioxidants.

However, they too are sugary drinks that can absolutely increase your risk of diabetes. While they do provide more overall nutrition, be aware that they can contribute significantly to your sugar intake for the day, as one bottle can easily supply 60-70 grams of sugar/carbohydrate. That is more than a 12oz can of soda!

To further support that point here is a 2008 study by Bazzano et al. The study was a huge (over 71,000 nurses), long term (18 years) look at the impact of fruit, vegetable and/or juice consumption on the development of type-2 diabetes. A daily increase of fruit and vegetable consumption of 3 servings per day had no impact on diabetes development, and an increase of 1 serving of leafy green vegetables actually slightly decreased risk.

The real shocker was that an increase in just 1 serving of fruit juice daily was correlated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. Now this was a correlational study, it was not a cause and effect study, so it doesn’t prove that consuming juice will lead to diabetes, it merely suggests that it might.

Plus if you are a highly active individual who otherwise eats a whole-foods based diet, are some Odwalla or Naked juice drinks here and there going to give you diabetes? Highly unlikely. Is a daily intake of that going to increase risk? It seems it might. It depends on many factors, and in context with the rest of your diet, but it surely is not helping your cause.

Finally, this leads me to diet soda.

I think many of you know my thoughts on diet soda and artificial sweeteners in general, and new research is only furthering my distaste for them all.

In the newly published Northern Manhattan Study, it was found that drinking just one diet soda every day increased risk of heart attack and stroke by 61% compared to non-drinkers!

This just piles on top of the fact that artificial sweeteners might destroy your intestinal flora, increase risk of cancer, increase risk of pre-term delivery for pregnant women, and if exposed to in-utero may exponentially increase the risk of some of these problems (such as cancer). Yay for artificial sweeteners!

While the occasional soda, diet or regular, won’t be a problem, consistently consuming these products is not good for your short or long-term health.

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Posted on March 28th, 2011 by Brian St. Pierre

16 Comments

  1. Jeanne Says:

    Good stuff, Brian! I gave up soda a year and a half ago and have never felt better. I now look at it and think “how did I ever drink that!?” My brother is an example of the ‘thin healthy person” who got diabetes and I am sure his years of soda and junk food contributed to that!

  2. 28-29 Week Pregnancy Update! « JillMaxwellfitness Says:

    [...] glasses.  No soda or coffee since I got pregnant.  Not only am I very sensitive to caffeine, but soda is crap anyway, pregnant or not.  Yes, even (especially) diet [...]

  3. Richard Says:

    Brian,

    Is the high sugar count in those smoothie drinks come from added sugar, etc? How does the sugar count compare to a smoothie you make yourself that is something like 1 cup blue berries + two handfuls spinach + 1 scoop whey and 8oz of unsweetened almond milk?

  4. Luke Says:

    Brian,

    Since I have no background in research/statistics, I’m always curious when studies come out like this if they are finding correlation or causation. It seems like they, and you, are implying some level of causation. Is it possible that this is a matter of correlation?

    I drink a can of Diet Coke every day at lunch. Other than that my diet is about as clean as it gets, short of churning my own butter and harvesting my own vegetables. If I saw compelling evidence that I’m killing myself, I’d certainly cut it out of my diet. To be honest though, I get such conflicting information from “experts” of all types. My doctor tells me I need to stop eating so many eggs. Research studies tell me I need to cut out red meat. I’ve seen studies that show organic fruits/vegetables are more likely to carry disease/bacteria. I’ve seen studies that show non-organic vegetables are going to give me cancer from pesticides. Aren’t shampoos going to give my future children autism too?

    Not to go too far off-track, just curious if you see a compelling case of causation in this (or other) studies related to artificial sweeteners.

  5. Nick Says:

    Brian,

    Interesting post; would be curious to get your thoughts on sugar with respect to peri-workout nutrition. I read your post on Prograde’s website (posted on 3/14). Assuming one went for the 1 serving of prograde workout recovery drink pre and 1 serving post workout (or Surge recovery), the 44g of sugar in prograde (84 grams in Surge) starts to look significant.

    I think your prograde article provides good background on the hormonal side of things. Could you comment on the optimal levels of sugar in the peri-workout window? This post seems to suggest that intake of workout recovery drinks may increase one’s risk of diabetes.

    Thanks,
    Nick

  6. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Richard,

    No the sugar content is usually from the fruit purees that they use, not much added sugar. However they tend to remove much of the fiber in those products, and regardless of whether it is added or not, that is still a lot of sugar in one sitting and overall.

    Your smoothie would contain approximately 25-30 grams of carbs overall, and only 15-20 grams of sugar.

  7. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Luke,

    The initial soda study is a correlational study. While this does not directly imply causality, the fact that diabetes is a disease of glucose tolerance (more or less), there are generally accepted mechanisms for how this would occur. For a study to find causation, it has to be a controlled trial, and those are generally much smaller in scope, due to the nature of trying to control all the variables. Does it seem illogical that the more soda you drink, the more likely you are to get diabetes?
    As for the Diet Coke comment, there is actually quite a bit of controlled data on aspartame causing problems in rats. So much so that the EPA is going to put it on its list of Potentially Dangerous Chemicals.
    The data that found an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks from diet soda was also correlational research, and while this does not PROVE causation, it does show that there is a relationship there. As for all of the other data I discussed, most of it was from controlled trials showing direct cause and effect in rats, so take that as you will, but how hard would it really be to switch over to a Steaz or Zevia soda, and get away from the artificial sweeteners?

  8. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Nick,

    If you really read the article then you would know that I am definitely not a fan of that set up. I actually prefer you not use Prograde Workout or Surge Recovery at all! There are certainly times where they can come in handy, but in general I would much prefer you eat real food!

    If you utilize the other set up in that article that utilizes real food, you will be far better off for performance, health, recovery and muscle growth.

    As for the peri-workout window, I don’t think you necessarily need sugar at all. There is no general optimal amount, because it all depends on the person’s size, gender, age, goals, length and intensity of training session, time til next session, etc. I think it is a good idea to bookend your training with carbs for sure, with a nice blend of starch, vegetables and fruit, but the actual amounts will vary per person.

  9. Luke Says:

    Brian- Thanks for the reply. I definitely understand the soda->diabetes argument. The whole ‘artificial sweeteners cause cancer’ is something I’ve been trying to better understand. I could certainly cut the can of diet coke out of my daily diet, but it’s just so damn good…

  10. Nick Says:

    Brian, thanks for your reply. On a less serious note and returning to your post on kettlepot soap, I thought I would share something I found at Marin Sun Farms (local farm here in the San Francisco Bay area): beef tallow citrus soap. First ingredient is Saponified grass fed beef tallow. I don’t know how much better it can get than a post-workout grass fed beef meal followed by a shower with grass fed soap.

  11. Dan Says:

    Hi Brian,

    Regarding artificial sweeteners, in my general perusal of the internet most of the negative data appears to come from Aspartame. What are your thoughts on Sucralose and/or Acesulfame-K as can be found in some other diet drinks (and especially, protein powders)?

    And whilst on the topic of intestinal flora and gut health in general, what are your thoughts about drinks like Yakult and/or taking probiotic supplements?

    Best,

    Daniel

  12. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Nick,

    That seems awesome.

    Dan,

    I definitely dislike sucralose and have blogged about it before. I have also had many clients decrease their splenda/sucralose intake and seen marked improvements in GI function. There isn’t much talk on Acesulfame-K, but I still don’t like it when there are better options (stevia, lo han, etc).

    I think taking probiotics is a fine idea, though I can’t say I recommend Yakult. There are 55-60 grams of sugar in one bottle! Eat some yogurt or other cultured food instead and get the probiotics with far less sugar.

  13. Rees Says:

    Awesome post.

    Good thing my high school football coach told us that pop would make us slow. Haven’t touched it sense.

  14. Tiger Says:

    Stay iniefmatrvo, San Diego, yeah boy!

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