Do Sugary Drinks Raise the Risk of Cancer
The word ‘sugar’ directly resonates with poor health, doesn’t it? Refined or added sugars are known to do more harm to your body than good. Apart from processed foods, the most common source of sugar intake is beverages.
Sugary drinks, also known as sweetened or soft drinks, are beverages that have added sugar, sweeteners like fructose, or fruit juice concentrates in them. Colas, sodas, lemonades, tea or coffee with sugar, sweetened milkshakes, and sports or energy drinks are commonly consumed beverages worldwide. Fruit juices that are high in sugar, including 100% fruit juices packages, also fall into this category.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of the population of the US consumes one sugary beverage a day with young adults as more regular consumers. A 2015 study also states that high consumption of sugary drinks caused 184,000 deaths worldwide each year.
Excessive consumption of sugar-filled beverages is linked to weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, cardiac diseases, diabetes, and more. Recent researches also state that consuming high amounts of sugary beverages can increase risk of cancers.
Let’s explore how.
Sugary Drinks and Its Relation to Cancer
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found a correlation between increased consumption of sugary drinks and cancer.
The research team from France studied over 100,000 people for five years to determine any link between cancer and sugary beverages. They defined sugary drinks as any beverage with more than 5% of sugar content. This consists of sugar sweetened beverages like tea, coffee as well as aerated liquids, fruit juices, and artificially sweetened or diet drinks.
The research found that drinking additional 100ml of sugar-filled beverages a day increases the risk of cancer by 18% and breast cancer by 22%. Among the different types of cancers detected during the study, 693 were breast cancer cases, 291 were prostate cancer cases and 166 were colorectal cancer cases.
The research cites that rising blood sugar level is a probable reason that links sugary drinks to cancers. Obesity, which is a result of heavy consumption of sugary drinks, may also contribute to this link between sweetened beverages and cancer.
The team also looked at dietary beverages or drinks with artificial sweeteners and found no link with cancer.
While this is an observational study, it serves its purpose to add to the importance of reducing sugar intake for good health. According to an infographic by a British based pharmacist, having sugary drinks like colas can impact the functioning of your brain and increase your blood pressure. Many researches also show negative implications of sugary beverages on the kidney and liver functioning. This leads to chronic and severe issues like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, which require allergy relief medicines and joint supplements.
So, how can you consume less sugar for a healthy life?
Tips to Cut Down on Sugary Drinks or Sugar Intake
WHO recommends that an individual should not consume more than 6tsps of added sugar in a day. However, factors like sweet tooth, sedentary lifestyle, stress, etc. can lead to an extra intake of sugar, unconsciously. A single can of soda or energy drink contains around 12g or almost 10-12 tsps of sugar, which is a lot!
While it might not be easy, here are some simple, easy-to-follow tips to reduce your sugar intake.
Make Reading Product Labels a Habit
Sugar is not always called sugar. It has different scientific names that go on the label to make the product look healthier. Reading product labels is a great way to identify and avoid excess sugar in your diet.
Sugar is also added in the form of sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, syrups, concentrated fruit juices, and more. You will be surprised, but sugar has 60 different names on food and drink labels! Some of the common ones to watch out for, even in healthy sports drinks, include:
- Corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup
- Cane sugar
- Apple or grape juice concentrate
- Evaporated cane juice
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Barley malt
- Golden syrup
- Invert sugar
- Maple syrup
- Malt syrup
- Any term ending with an ‘ose’ like galactose, lactose, sucrose, dextrose, etc.
Read the label to carefully measure the sugar intake in your diet.
Cut Down on Added Sugar Gradually
Do you prefer your coffee or tea sweet? Do you prefer devouring sweetened beverages on a regular basis? To successfully change any habit, you’ve to go slow. Apply the same rule to cut down on sugary drinks.
For example, if you add two spoons of sugar to your morning coffee, reduce it to one and then gradually move to half a spoon or even less.
"Replacing one daily serving (8 oz) of SSBs with an equivalent amount of reduced-fat milk or total milk was associated with a 35–36% lower risk of EO-CRC,” says Dr. Yin Cao, associate professor of surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO.
Drink More Water
The best way to cut down on sugary beverages is to replace them with water. Water is associated with several health benefits:
- It has zero calories
- It flushes out toxins
- It keeps your gut clean
- It lubricates joints, reducing the need for joint supplements
- It regulates body temperature, and more
Here are some ways to drink more water instead of sugar-filled beverages:
- Carry a refillable bottle to work or whenever you’re travelling
- Order water instead of a soft drink or soda at a restaurant
- Set reminders or drink water during transition like in the morning, during breaks, etc.
- Add your favorite fruit slices like lemon, apple or oranges to give it slight flavor
Water will keep you filled and help reduce cravings for fizzy beverages.
Choose Healthier Beverages Over Sugary Drinks
When in the mood for something sweet or an energy boost product, opt for healthier drink options like:
- Homemade smoothies blended with fresh fruits or vegetables with low-fat, plain yogurt, skimmed milk, almond milk or water.
- Fresh coconut water without any added sugar
- Unsweetened green, herbal, or white tea. Be aware of the caffeine content as well.
- Fresh, homemade vegetable juices
- Sparkling water