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April 30, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Soda Linked to Diabetes

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Adult onset diabetes is on the rise. Rates in the US are approaching seven percent of the adult population. While obesity and genetics are well-established links, the gravity of this epidemic warrants a continued vigilance for any and all causal factors. Recent studies have implicated soda as an independent risk for the development of diabetes

Our Love Affair with Soda

Soda (or pop as we call it in the Midwest) conjures up fond memories. Little league games were capped with a Faygo soda in a glass bottle. I can remember all the Coca-Cola commercials from the last three decades. If my belly was upset, my mom gave me some Vernors ginger ale to settle my stomach.

I'm not alone; Americans love their soda. According to the National Soft Drink Association, the average American consumes 600 12-ounce servings of soda per year. This has increased dramatically over recent decades. Among various factors, advertising, free restaurant refills, and huge portions are to blame.

Recent Findings

Medical interest in soft drinks increased a couple years ago with a study out of Harvard University which showed a link between soda consumption and diabetes. Specifically, consumption of one daily 12 ounce can of soda increased the risk 26% for the later development of diabetes. Further, risk increased with the amount of soda consumed daily. These findings were backed up by another large-scale study published last week out of England that linked 12 ounces of soda daily to a 20% increased risk.

While the presence of simple sugars (namely high-fructose corn syrup), can likely assume the lion's share of blame, diet sodas sweetened with aspartame also showed risk. A study out of France published in January showed that, in women, the consumption of greater than 353 ml of regular soda and greater than 601 ml of aspartame-sweetened diet soda increased risk.


It's hard to argue with such strong and consistent findings. With the large number of subjects involved, the British study was able to factor out degree of obesity (body mass index) which could have skewed the data. 

Considering the findings with diet soda, one must ask if it is the soda itself or our drive for sweet things that brings the risk. It is interesting to note that studies on juices and nectars did not show an increased diabetes risk as with soda. This implies that the high fructose corn syrup found in regular, non-diet soda could be partially responsible. Indeed, high fructose corn syrup has been shown to be treated differently than other sugars by fat cells in regards to the metabolism of triglycerides.

Still, behavior and attitude toward health are likely significant factors here.  For perspective, while smoking has not been shown to affect the pancreas nor insulin metabolism, it is still associated with a 30% increased risk for the development of diabetes.


Last year, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on supersized soft drinks served in his city, but this was shot down last month in the courts. While official regulations do seem a bit over-controlling, the impetus is on us as individuals to watch our consumption of soda as a means to improve our health.

Now that I think of it, soda was a treat growing up and not a daily expectation. Thanks mom for that life lesson... you were ahead of your time!


Diabetologia  online April 24, 2013

Diabetes Care 2010: 33:2477–2483

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition online January 30, 2013

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1 Comment

  • I only wish my husband would not drink them.

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