Sugary drink consumption increases cancer risk, research suggests

Grant Boone
July 12, 2019

Sugary drinks - including fruit juice and fizzy pop - may increase the risk of cancer, French scientists say.

Researches identified that even a 100ml increased intake of sugary beverages a day was linked to 18% higher chances of cancer and 22% increased risk of breast cancer. Over that time, almost 2,200 cases of cancer were diagnosed, including 693 breast cancers.

But they said their findings showed an association and could not prove that sugary drinks definitely caused cancer.

Consuming sugary drinks is linked to a higher risk of developing cancer, according to a study published on Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

Some 21pc of the group were men and 79pc women.

The researchers defined it as a drink with more than 5% sugar. The questionnaire also included counting their daily sugar intake as well as the amount of artificially sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices.

For every extra 100ml per day consumed on top of this, a person's cancer risk increased by 18pc for all cancers and, among women, by 22pc for breast cancer. Over 100,000 adults participated in the survey and the average age of the participants were 42 years old, with about 79% of whom were women.

However, Catherine Collins, a dietician in the UK's National Health Service, said that the absence of cancer risk in using diet drinks was the "take-home message" of the research. Sugary drinks such as colas, lemonade and energy drinks have been linked to obesity, which is a cause of cancer, but the French researchers suggest there could also be other reasons sugar could trigger it.

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Other explanations for the link between sugary drinks and cancer could be the high glycaemic load of sugary drinks, they said. Brown suggested further research was needed before we know. Participants were followed up with for up nine years.

The research, however, found no link between diet beverages and cancer, although the authors warned the finding should be interpreted with caution, because diet beverages had a relatively low consumption rate among the study participants.

"These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks", the authors wrote in conclusion.

"A lot of the research on sugar-sweetened drinks and cancer has been tied to obesity", noted Colleen Doyle, managing director of nutrition and physical activity at the ACS.

Both juice and other sweet beverages were associated with increased overall cancer risk, but links to specific types of cancers were either not found or too few cases were present in the study for determinations to be made.

"Sugary drinks are known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, overweight, obesity and diabetes", said Dr Touvier.

"All beverages - either with sugar or without - are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet", the American Beverage Association said in a statement.

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