New Study: Sugary Drinks May Raise Cancer Risk

  • The team also studied slimming drinks that used zero-calorie artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, but did not find them linked to cancer.
  • From 2,193 cancer cases found in the study, 693 were breast cancer, 291 were prostate cancer, and 166 were colorectal cancer.
  • Obesity can lead to certain cancers, and excessive consumption of sugary drinks increases the chances of weight gain.

French scientists say drinking sugary drinks such as juices and sodas may increase the risk of cancer. The results of the study were published in the British Medical Journal. The study tracked more than 100,000 people over five years. The research team at the Sorbonne-Western University in Paris speculated that sugary drinks may increase the risk of cancer because of blood sugar levels.

Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. The various types of sugar are derived from different sources. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and include glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose, and galactose. “Table sugar” or “granulated sugar” refers to sucrose, a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. In the body, sucrose is hydrolysed into fructose and glucose. (Photo: Sugars, clockwise from top-left: white refined, unrefined, unprocessed cane, brown)

However, there is no conclusive evidence that sugary beverages are necessarily carcinogenic, and experts have called for more research. Researchers say beverages with more than 5% sugar are sugary drinks. This includes juice (even without added sugar), soft drinks, sweetened shakes, energy drinks, and sugared tea or coffee.

The team also studied slimming drinks that used zero-calorie artificial sweeteners instead of sugar but did not find them linked to cancer. The study concluded that drinking 100 ml of sugary drinks a day (about two cans per week) increases the risk of cancer by 18%.

For every 1,000 people involved in the study, 22 cancer cases were found. The researchers said that if everyone in the study had 100 ml of sugary drinks a day, there would have been an additional four cases (or 26 cases of cancer per 1,000 people) over the five year study.

“However, this study assumes a real causal relationship between the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and cancer, which requires further research,” said Graham Wheeler, senior statistician at Cancer Research UK, a UK cancer research institute.

From 2,193 cancer cases found in the study, 693 were breast cancer, 291 were prostate cancer, and 166 were colorectal cancer. Studies have indeed shown that people who drink the most sugary drinks (about 185 ml per day) are more likely to have cancer than those who drink the least (less than 30 ml per day).

Sorbonne University (French: Sorbonne Université) is a public research university in Paris, France, established in 2018 by the merger of Paris-Sorbonne University, Pierre et Marie Curie University, along with smaller institutions. The date 1257 on its logo refers to the founding of Collège de Sorbonne by Robert de Sorbon, part of the university’s early legacy. With 32 Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners, Sorbonne University has a long tradition of academic excellence.

One possible explanation is that drinking sugary drinks increases the risk of cancer. However, those who drink the most sugary drinks may have other unhealthy behaviors, such as eating more salt and calories, which also increases their risk of cancer, and the sugary drinks themselves may not matter. So this study does not confirm that sugary drinks can cause cancer.

Amelia Lake from Teesside University in the United Kingdom said that although the study did not confirm the causal relationship between sugar and cancer, it did indicate that it is important to reduce sugar intake.

Obesity can lead to certain cancers, and excessive consumption of sugary drinks increases the chances of weight gain. The researchers pointed out that some of the chemicals in the drink, such as those that make the drink attractive, may also be one of the cancer culprits. However, their research did not intend to answer this question.

The research team at the Sorbonne-Western University in Paris said that larger studies are needed to confirm its findings. Researcher,  Mathilde Touvier told news reporters that sugary drinks are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, “but our research shows that sugary drinks may also increase the risk of cancer.”

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Aiden Adams

Aiden Adamms is a longtime journalist and broadcaster. He worked for Radio and TV in newsrooms across Austria as a national reporter, producer, and host.


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