If you thought glugging a carton of orange juice was a healthy way to start your day, you might want to think again.
Drinking large amounts of sugary drinks every day, whether it's fruit juice or soda, is associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to a new study. This doesn't mean you need to avoid drinking your favorite sugary soda for all eternity – everything in moderation, as they say – but it does add to the wealth of research suggesting you should watch your sugar intake.
“When the group of sugary drinks was split into 100 percent fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer,” the study authors write.
Reporting in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the French National Institute for Health studied the diets of over 100,000 healthy people for up to nine years in France. The average consumption of sugary drinks, defined as a drink with more than 5 percent sugar, across all participants was around 93 milliliters. Those who drunk 100 milliliters more than this each day were found to have an 18 percent increase in the risk of developing some form of cancer and a 22 percent increase in risk for breast cancer in women.
The link between sugary drinks and the risk of cancer might be explained by their effect on obesity, the high hypoglycemic index of the drinks, or their additives. However, their study did not look for a causal link between sugary drinks and cancer, meaning they could not definitively say sugar drinks cause cancer. As with any epidemiology study, many variables and factors could be at play here.
“While this study doesn’t offer a definitive causative answer about sugar and cancer (not at all claimed by the authors), it does add to the overall picture of the importance of the current drive to reduce our sugar intake,” commented Dr Amelia Lake, reader in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University, who was not involved with the study.
“The message from the totality of evidence on excess sugar consumption and various health outcomes is clear – reducing the amount of sugar in our diet is extremely important.”
The research also had some interesting insights into artificial sweeteners with their findings showing no link between "zero-sugar diet sodas" and cancer. Although the number of people drinking “diet soda” was relatively small and not conclusive, the research helps to challenge the long-standing idea that sweeteners are actually worse than actual sugar, at least in regards to cancer risk.
“In summary, these findings are interesting, but the take home message is the absence of cancer risk in using diet drinks containing artificial sweeteners," added Catherine Collins RD FBDA, an NHS dietitian. "For too long the nutri-myth of sweeteners being a health risk has remained in popular culture. All current sweeteners in use have been through rigorous safety testing before being acceptable for human use."