Consumption of sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juice is linked to a higher risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, researchers reported yesterday.
The study linked drinking just a small glass of a sugary drink per day, 100 ml, about a third of a typical can of soda to an 18% increase in overall cancer risk and a 22% increase in risk for breast cancer. This follows a recent study linking sugary beverage consumption to greater risk of premature death.
“The results indicate statistically significant correlations between the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and risk of all cancers combined, and of breast cancer,” said Ian Johnson, nutrition researcher and emeritus fellow, Quadram Institute Bioscience, who wasn’t involved in the research.
“Surprisingly perhaps, the increased risk of cancer in heavier consumers of sugary drinks was observed even among consumers of pure fruit juice, this warrants more research,” Johnson told the Science Media Centre in the UK.
Mathilde Touvier, lead author of the study which was published Wednesday in medical journal BMJ, said that the findings added to research showing that reducing how many sweetened beverages we drink would be beneficial for our health.
“What we observed was that the main driver of the association seems to be really the sugar contained in these sugary drinks,” said Touvier, who is the research director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team of the National Health and Medical Research Institute at the Paris 13 University.
Touvier said her team observed that sugar seemed to be the main driver of the link.
“High sugary drinks consumption is a risk factor for obesity and weight gain,” she said, and, “obesity is in itself a risk factor for cancer.” Another possibility is that additives, such as 4-methylimidazole, which is found in drinks that contain caramel coloring, could play a role in cancer formation.
Touvier suggested that people should stick to public health guidelines that recommend limiting sugary drinks to a maximum of one glass a day. The consumption of sugary drinks has exploded worldwide in recent decades and the high-calorie beverages have already been associated with a elevated risk of obesity, itself recognised as a leading cancer risk factor.
The researchers wanted to assess the associations between heightened consumption of sugar drinks and the risks of overall cancer, as well as several cancer types, including breast, prostate and bowel cancers.
They surveyed more than 100,000 adults, with an average of age of 42, 79 percent of whom were women. The participants, who were followed for a maximum of nine years, completed at least two 24-hour online validated dietary questionnaires, calculating their daily consumption of sugar and artificially sweetened beverages as well as 100 percent fruit juices.