- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Women who drink large amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages face an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and of gaining weight, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study in JAMA is at least the second this year to link the increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup to the rapid rise in obesity in this country. High-fructose corn syrup is found in almost all non-diet soft drinks and most fruit drinks.

But the new study also connects consumption of drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup to the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, which has occurred in recent decades. An estimated 17 million Americans are living with Type 2, the most common form of diabetes.

Once thought to strike only adults, Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem among children.

The rate of obesity among American adults has risen from 23 percent in the early 1990s to 30 percent today, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other data show that two-thirds of Americans are overweight.

The food and beverage industries began switching sweeteners from sucrose, or table sugar, to fructose, or corn syrup, in the 1970s because they found fructose was cheaper to manufacture and was sweeter.

Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet. Scientists writing in JAMA, whose research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, contend such sweetened beverages may heighten the risk for diabetes, because the large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup they contain raises blood sugar similarly to sucrose.

“Our findings suggest that frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may be associated with larger weight gain and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, possibly by providing excessive calories and large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugar,” wrote Matthias B. Schulze, formerly of the Harvard School of Public Health, lead author of the report.

Data for the researchers’ diabetes and weight-gain analyses came from a national survey known as the “Nurses Health Study 2.” The diabetes analysis involved 91,249 women who were free of diabetes and other major chronic diseases at the start of the study in 1991. Researchers identified 741 women who became Type 2 diabetics during follow-up.

After adjusting for other variables such as lifestyle and diet, the investigators showed that women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened drinks per day had an 83 percent increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, compared with those who consumed fewer than one of those beverages per month.

The weight-gain analysis included 51,603 women for whom complete dietary information and body weight were recorded in 1991, 1995 and 1999.

The researchers found that women with stable consumption patterns had no differences in weight gain.

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