Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | 
Medically Reviewed by dr. reeja tharu, M.Phil.,Ph.D on Jul 06, 2018

Research Studies on Sweetened Beverages vs. Type-2 Diabetes

Numerous studies have been done to find out the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and type-2 diabetes. Although the studies yielded mixed results, where some found a positive link between the two and others were not so sure, it is unequivocally agreed upon that intake of sugary beverages should be limited to reduce risk of metabolic syndrome.

“People should limit how much sugar-sweetened beverages they drink and replace them with healthy alternatives, such as water, to reduce risk of diabetes as well as obesity, gout, tooth decay, and cardiovascular disease,” says Vasanti Malik, a researcher from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Two research studies are briefly described here.

A meta-analysis on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) intake and risk of metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes from the MEDLINE database revealed that SSBs lead to weight gain by virtue of their ‘high added sugar content, low satiety potential and incomplete compensatory reduction in energy intake at subsequent meals after consumption of liquid calories, leading to positive energy balance’.

SSBs when consumed in large amounts have shown to raise blood glucose and insulin concentrations rapidly and dramatically thus contributing to a high dietary glycemic load. The researchers say, “High glycemic load diets are known to induce glucose intolerance and insulin resistance particularly among overweight individuals and can increase levels of inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein, which are linked to type-2 diabetes risk”. According to them ‘a high dietary glycemic load also increases risk of developing cholesterol gallstone disease, which is associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type-2 diabetes.

Endogenous compounds in SSBs, such as advanced glycation end products, produced during the process of caramelization in cola-type beverages may also affect pathophysiological pathways related to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome’.

The researchers concluded that intake of SSBs should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases.

Similarly, in another study, Schulze and colleagues found that women who consumed lot of sugar-sweetened soft drinks tended to:

  • Be less physically active
  • Smoke more
  • Have higher intakes of total calories
  • Have lower intakes of protein, alcohol, magnesium, and cereal fiber.

They concluded that ‘these women have dietary patterns and lifestyle habits that lead to increased risk of several disease states, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease’.

Although this study was done on women, the findings are applicable to men and children as well.

A joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) clearly recommends restricting intake of sugar-sweetened beverages with total sugar intake comprising no more than 10 percent of a healthy diet.


  1. Bray GA, Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):537-43.
  2. Ferder, L. et al. The Role of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Metabolic Syndrome and Hypertension. Current Hypertension Reports Volume 12, Number 2, 105-112, DOI: 10.1007/s11906-010-0097-3
  3. Nagai et al. The Role of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Coactivator-1 in the Pathogenesis of Fructose-Induced Insulin Resistance. Cell Metabolism, 2009; 9 (3): 252-264
  4. Welsh J.A., et al. Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults. JAMA. 2010;303(15):1490-1497. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.449
  5. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes - (http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477.full)
  6. 2nd study - Schulze MB,Manson JE, Ludwig DS, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA. 2004;292:927-934.

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