Daily fizzy drink hikes diabetes risk 20%

GlaxoSmith Kline, a major manufacturer of anti-diabetes drugs, has decided to sell its Lucozade and Ribena brands — a move that coincides with the release of a major study that shows drinking one can of fizzy drinks a day increases the likelihood of contracting diabetes by 20%.

The company’s CEO, Andrew Witty, has said the brands don’t fit with either the company’s healthcare products business or its emerging-markets business.

Consultant endocrinologist Donal O’Shea highlighted the company’s conflict of interest on RTÉ radio and said that from a corporate brand perspective “based on this study, they will need to put a mark [or label] on products, at least for under 18s, as the consumption of these drinks in that age group is massive”.

Glaxo produces type 2 diabetes treatment as well as cancer treatment. Type 2 diabetes is associated with a higher risk of cancer and dementia.

The fizzy drink study, published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, Diabetologia, found that the chances of developing type 2 diabetes rose 20% if a person drank sweet carbonated drinks every day.

The study, led by researchers at the Imperial College in London, adds to a growing body of evidence that sugar intake has an impact both on weight gain and diabetes.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages induces rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and in insulin secretion, leading to insulin resistance, one of mechanisms which causes diabetes.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks “increases your risk of developing diabetes beyond the effect on body weight”, said Dora Romaguera, one of the study leaders. “It’s alarming... most people are not really aware of the dangers of these drinks. You may remain thin and still have a higher risk of developing diabetes.”

A Glaxo spokeswoman said: “As part of wider efforts to promote healthy lifestyles, GSK has committed to reducing sugar and calorie content in Lucozade and Ribena in Britain and Ireland. As a global healthcare company, GSK has a responsibility to help people make healthier choices.”

In the Seanad, Labour’s Aideen Hayden urged the Government to remove vending machines selling these products from state-sponsored facilities. “This is a matter of national importance, one-in-four primary school children in Ireland are obese, and diabetes in Ireland is reaching epidemic proportions. While making these products less widely available is not the entire answer, it would be a good a start.”

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Donal O’Shea described the study as “landmark” as up to now “we had the association, but this study says it’s causal in a dose-dependant fashion — the more you drink, the more likely to get type 2 diabetes”.

He urged parents to take steps to stop children consuming fizzy drinks, which he described as “nutritionally empty”.


Q Are fizzy drinks really that bad?

A To be frank, yes. Research from Imperial College London reveals that drinking a can of a sweetened fizzy drink every day increases your chances of getting type-2 diabetes by about 20%.

As a result, the researchers have called for clearer public health information on the effects of sugary soft drinks. This could mean labels warning of the potential effects of regular intake, not unlike the “smoking causes cancer” labels on cigarettes.

Q Aah, but isn’t that going a bit too far?

A No, not really. Lifestyle and dietary changes have led to a global surge in diabetes cases. The number of sufferers worldwide will almost double to an estimated 552m by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

Consultant Endocrinologist and one of the country’s foremost obesity experts, Dr Donal O’Shea has said parents need to start viewing sugar-sweetened drinks as “a treat” and should only allow their children to drink them on special occasions, such as Christmas and parties.

He said parents need to stop children consuming fizzy drinks, which he described as “nutritionally empty”. He also warned that type-2 diabetes is associated with increased risk of cancer and dementia.

Q So, what instead?

A Water and milk preferably but if you’d rather something sweet: pure fruit juices, smoothies and diluted drinks are not significantly associated with diabetes incidence. Smoothies and juices also contain vitamins.

It should also be noted that fizzy drinks are acidic and regular consumption will damage teeth enamel.

Q I hear that sports drinks are particularly bad? My children often drink those at half-time during a football match?

A According to Dr O’Shea, even the companies that make the sports drinks say they are not suitable for under-18s.

He warned that the “sugar hit” that you get from a can of Coke is different from the hit that you get from a sports drink like Gatorade or Lucozade sport as they are isotonic.

A recent US study has shown sports drinks are associated with more weight gain as they are “delivered more efficiently than those that cause a sugar spike”.

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