Consumption of sugary drinks linked with cancer risk

Henrietta Strickland
July 11, 2019

Drinking less than one can of sugary drink or 100% fruit juice per day has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, research suggests.

The researchers, from French Public Health Agency, and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN) in Bobigny, France, found that the link between sugary drinks and cancer held true even when a person's weight was taken into account. This follows a recent study linking sugary beverage consumption to greater risk of premature death.

The team said "being overweight and weight gain might not be the only drivers of the association between sugary drinks and the risk of cancer".

Graham Wheeler, senior statistician of the Cancer Research UK said, "This large, well-designed study adds to the existing evidence that consumption of sugary drinks may be associated with increased risk of some cancers". "So it's not so odd that we observe this association for fruit juices", said Touvier.

Obesity is a known cause of 13 different types of cancer but the latest study found that even slim people were at increased risk if they drank sugary drinks or fruit juice.

Another possibility is that additives, such as 4-methylimidazole, which is found in drinks that contain caramel coloring, could play a role in cancer formation.

Responding to the study, the American Beverage Association stressed the safety of sugary drinks. The findings may also taint the image of fruit juices, which are often perceived - and promoted - as healthy. Beverage companies are working to provide more choices with reduced or no sugar, smaller package sizes and clear calorie information, the industry group said.

The study's authors, however, suggested that taxing sugary products could have an effect on lowering cancer rates.

Threat: Drinking pure fruit juice each day "increased risk of cancer by 18pc".

Among women with the highest intake, the risk of breast cancer increased by 37pc.

"For too long the nutri-myth of sweeteners being a health risk has remained in popular culture".

He added: "Participants were followed on average for about five years, and 22 participants per 1,000 developed some form of cancer".

Researchers in France monitored participants' daily consumption of sugar and artificially sweetened beverages, as well as 100% fruit juices.

On average, men consumed more sugary drinks than women - 90.3 ml daily compared to 74.6 ml.

But is it obesity or specifically the sugary drinks that cause cancer?

The researchers also adjusted for several confounding cancer risk factors, including age, sex, educational level, family history, smoking and physical activity levels.

That's a major limitation, researchers say, as it's impossible to determine whether the association is due to a type of beverage or another hidden health issue. "This highlights why our United Kingdom sugar levy and controls on the marketing of high-sugar products is so important, not only in terms of obesity but also possibly cancer prevention", said Dr Amelia Lake, reader in public health nutrition at Teesside University. She was not involved in the current study.

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