If you want to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, replacing sugar sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened ones might sound like a good place to start. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to insulin resistance and other negative metabolic and hormonal changes associated with diabetes. But a new meta-analysis—research that combines data from multiple studies—casts doubt on the logic behind switching to artificially sweetened drinks: it found that artificially sweetened beverages are also associated with an increased risk for diabetes. Published in the medical journal BMJ, the study looked at data for 38,253 people from 17 separate study populations, and examined the link between the risk of type 2 diabetes and sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice. After taking into account various types of bias and lifestyle factors, such as obesity, here is what the researchers found:
Sugar sweetened beverages were associated with an 18% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. When researchers took into account the body weight of the participants, there was still a 13% increased risk, suggesting that sugar sweetened drinks may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, regardless of one’s weight.
Artificially sweetened beverages were associated with a 25% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and an 8% increased risk when body weight was taken into account.
Fruit juice was also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, although the findings were not statistically significant.
Researchers warned, however, that the findings pertaining to artificially sweetened drinks and fruit juice were likely based on studies involving bias, and should be viewed with caution. Nevertheless, they concluded that these types of drinks were still unlikely to be healthy alternatives for people with, or at risk for, type 2 diabetes. Artificial sweeteners have been implicated in causing other negative metabolic changes in the body, and fruit juice may still be a significant source of sugar. So, what should you drink if you’re concerned about developing type 2 diabetes? Water—though not as exciting as some other drinks—is never a bad idea.