Sugary Drinks Consumption Associated with Higher Cancer Risk

July 17th 2019

While caution is advised in interpreting their results, the findings, published in The BMJ, add to the growing evidence that limiting sugary drink consumption may lead to a reduction in cancer cases.

Following the rising consumption of sugary drinks globally throughout the last few decades, researchers are now suggesting that there is a link between higher consumption of sugary beverages and rates of cancer.

While caution is advised in interpreting their results, the findings, published inThe BMJ, add to the growing evidence that limiting sugary drink consumption may lead to a reduction in cancer cases.

While it is known that the consumption of sugary drinks is associated with the risk of obesity, but research on its direct links to cancer are still limited.

The researchers based their findings on 101,257 healthy French adults (21% men, 79% women), with an average age of 42 years old. The participants completed two 24-hour online validated dietary questionnaires, intended to measure their usual intake of 3,300 different food and beverage items. The researchers followed up for a maximum of 9 years (2009-2018).

During the investigators’ follow-up, 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed and validated, including 693 cases of breast cancer, 291 cases of prostate cancer, and 166 cases of colorectal cancer. The average age at diagnosis was 59 years old.

A 100 mL per day increase in sugar drink consumption was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer, and a 22% increased risk of breast cancer. Both fruit juices and other sugary drinks showed a higher risk.

Consumption of artificially sweetened beverages, on the other hand, did not show an increased risk of cancer, but the authors warned that there was a relatively low consumption of artificially sweetened beverages among their sample.

The researchers suggested several explanations for their findings, including the effects of sugar on visceral fat, blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers, all of which are linked to increased cancer risks, adding that other chemical compounds like additives may play a role.

Concerns about sugary drink consumption are nothing new, and several solutions have been suggested and implemented.

After Berkeley, California, instituted the nation’s first soda tax in 2015, investigators at the University of California-Berkeley found that consumption of sugary drinks dropped 52% among the city’s low-income residents.

Campaigns to raise awareness and policy actions such as marketing restrictions have also been implemented in various areas, all with the goal of reducing consumption.

The researchers’ findings support current nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, as well as policy actions such as taxation and marketing restrictions. These solutions may not only lead to decreased obesity levels, but could potentially contribute to a reduction of cancer incidence.

References

Chazelas E, Srour B, Desmetz E, et al. Sugary drink consumption and risk of cancer: results from NutriNet-Sante prospective cohort.Bmj. 2019:12408. Doi:10.1136/bmj.12408

Lee MM, Falbe J, Schillinger D, Basu S, Mccullock CE, Madsen KA. Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption 3 Years After the Berkeley, California, Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax.American Journal of Public Health. 2019;109(4):637-639. Doi:10.2105/ajph.2019.304971.

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