Sugary Drinks Strike Again

The evidence is undeniable that sugar-sweetened drinks raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and have a big impact on obesity. Now a new study shows that these beverages also seem to raise the risk of endometrial cancer. An investigation from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that women who drank the most sugar-sweetened drinks had a risk for the most common type of endometrial cancer that was 78 percent higher than that of women who did not consume these beverages. The researchers reviewed data from more than 23,000 postmenopausal women taking part in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The women were asked to complete a questionnaire that asked about consumption of 127 food items. Between 1986 and 2010, 506 of the women developed type 1 endometrial cancer, an estrogen-dependent disease. The study revealed only an association between the risk of endometrial cancer and sugar-sweetened drinks. While it doesn’t prove that the drinks caused the cancer, there is a plausible link: “increase(ed) consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks has paralleled the increase in obesity. Obese women tend to have higher levels of estrogens and insulin than women of normal weight. Increased levels of estrogens and insulin are established risk factors for endometrial cancer,” said study leader Maki Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., M.S., R.D.

My take? I’ve warned for many years to avoid consuming high fructose corn syrup, which is used to sweeten most soft drinks. These products represent a major source of the average American intake of an unhealthy amount of sugar, 355 calories per person per day. That amounts to 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. A single 12-ounce soda contains about 130 calories and the equivalent of eight teaspoons of sugar. The high glycemic load of these sugary drinks provokes insulin resistance in many people, which underlies much of the obesity in our society and raises risks of type 2 diabetes. And now we have evidence suggesting that these drinks also raise the risk of endometrial cancer, the most common cancer of the female reproductive system. These beverages have absolutely no place in a healthy diet.

Maki Inoue-Choi et al, “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake and the Risk of Type I and Type II Endometrial Cancer among Postmenopausal Women”, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention, 2013; DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0636

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