Are Sugary Drinks Major Cause Behind Increasing Cancer Risk?

A new study infers link between growing risk of cancer and the consumption of sugary drinks that include 100% fruit juices. 

According to a recent French study, there may be a directly proportional link between sugary drinks that include 100% fruit juices as well as soda and other fizzy drinks, and the risk of cancer. Based on the study published in The BMJ, as well as articles The Guardian, and the Food Navigator website, drinks that contain 100% fruit content minus added sugars have been observed to have a possible association” to causing cancer.

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Researchers have been making connections between sugar consumption and a wide range of adverse effects sugary drinks can have on people, of which obesity, heart trouble and type 2 diabetes are some examples. Prior studies have suggested that sugar in soft drinks leads to cancer and tumor growth in rodents. However, recently there has been a shift in research with scientists exploring the link between sugary drinks and cancer.

The study which was originally published in The BMJ [a leading general medical journal], stresses on an association between high intake of sugary drinks from juices to soft drinks, and cancer. Eloi Chazelas [first author of the study] and team have examined the links between the forms of cancer and consumption of sugary beverages in roughly 101,257 French adults aged 42 years old, on average.

In their examination they have included “sugar-sweetened beverages” such as soft drinks, syrups, fruit juices and drinks, as well as milk-based sugary drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks et cetera. With the use of a 24-hour online food questionnaire, the researchers were able to asses the consumption of participants from nearly 3,300 types of food and drinks over a period of 9 years.

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During the span of the study, the research team focused on risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, respectively. For this purpose they observed individuals on the basis of age, sex, education, hereditary risk of cancer and lifestyle factors that may include for instance, a persons’ exercise patterns and smoking habits. During the followup period, it was confirmed that 2,193 people developed cancer at the age of 59 years old when diagnosed for the first time.

The results were classified as:

  • 693 patients of breast cancer
  • 291 affected by prostrate cancer
  • 166 suffering from colorectal cancer

It was revealed by the analysis that a daily increase of 100 ml intake of sugary drinks was directly proportional to an 18% increase in overall risk for cancer and especially 22% increase for breast cancer specifically.

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Moreover, the researchers then analyzed the potential risk for 100% fruit juices separately, which also showed an elevated risk of overall cancer and breast cancer, however, no links with colorectal cancer or prostate cancer were found in the study. On the other hand, the study further revealed that diet drinks did not increase the risk of developing cancer.

Consequently, the researchers elaborated that the people who usually consumed diet drinks, did so in very small portions, therefore, they suggested interpreting the result with caution. The researchers also highlighted the strengths and weaknesses for their research. According to them, the large sample size and a detailed assessment proved to be a strength for the study, whereas, the fact that the findings may not be very general proved to be a weakness for them.

They elaborated that since the participants for the “NutriNet-Santé cohort” were mostly women, it may be potentially responsible for “lower cancer incidence” as women tend to have “health conscious behaviors” as well as “higher socio-professional and educational levels than the general French population”. They continued to say that another limitation of the study could be an inability to determine causality and potential measurement biases, respectively.

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They concluded by saying that sugary drinks may raise the risk of developing cancer as sugar does affect the visceral fat, blood sugar levels and inflammatory markers proven to be correlated with higher cancer risk. They stated:

These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence.

Study Authors


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