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New study provides further evidence of the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and cancer.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States.  Growing scientific evidence shows that health-related risk behaviours including tobacco use, alcohol use, physical activity, healthy dietary patterns, and weight control may impact health among cancer survivors. Sugar intake or sugar-sweetened beverage as part of a diet has also been demonstrated to have a positive association with some cancers. Therefore, it is of particular interest to examine sugar-sweetened beverage consumption behaviours amongst cancer survivors.  Now, a study from researchers at LSU Health New Orleans suggests that age is an important factor in the association between cancer and sugar-sweetened beverages.  The team recommend that intervention programs to reduce consumption of added sugar be focused on lower socio-economic status, young males, as well as cervical cancer survivors. The opensource study is published in the journal Translational Cancer Research.

Previous studies show that sugar intake or sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has been demonstrated to have a positive association with obesity, diabetes and cardio-metabolic diseases, as well as some cancers. With recent evidence suggesting a link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of pancreatic and endometrial cancer, as well as the risk of colon cancer recurrence and death among cancer survivors.  As more people are surviving cancer, the consumption of added sugar will be an increasingly important risk factor.  However, evidence for how sugar intake or sugar-sweetened beverage consumption affects cancer risk is limited and unclear.  The current study evaluates the risk factors of sugar consumption from sugar-sweetened beverages among cancer survivors and people not diagnosed with cancer.

The current study examined data from 22,182 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2012 data. The survey measured the consumption of sodas, fruit-flavoured drinks, sweetened fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and coffees and other sugar-sweetened drinks. It also ascertained cancer, smoking and obesity status, as well as demographic characteristics including age, gender, race, educational level and poverty/income ratio.

Results show that for the overall study population, 15.7% had high sugar intake from sugar-sweetened drinks, and people with no cancer history had a higher sugar intake than cancer survivors. Data findings show that the sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages among women with cervical cancer history was much higher at 60g/day, compared to other cancer survivors who consumed only around 30-40 g/day. The lab also found that individuals who had high sugar intake, 80g/day sugar, from sugar-sweetened beverages were younger, male, black, obese, current smokers, low-income, or had education levels at or below high school.

The group note that although consuming added sugar is not recommended, people are usually unaware of how much sugar they get from sugar-sweetened beverages.  They go on to stress that the American Heart Association recommends a consumption goal of no more than 450 kilocalories (kcal) of sugar-sweetened beverages or fewer than three 12-ounce cans of soda per week.  The researchers state that to their knowledge, no other studies have examined sugar-sweetened beverage intake in cancer survivors.

The team surmise the results of their study indicate that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption behaviour varies across cancers and may be related to age.  They go on to suggest that intervention programs to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage or added sugar consumption should primarily focus on lower socio-economic status young males, both non-cancer and cancer survivors, as well as cervical cancer survivors. For the future, the researchers state that they also recommend custom intervention to decrease added sugar consumption be conducted for both non-cancer individuals and cancer survivors in communities and the medical care system.

Source: LSU Health New Orleans


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Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

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2 thoughts on “New study provides further evidence of the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and cancer. Leave a comment

  1. To be clear, science does not substantiate the claim that the sugars in beverages cause cancer – of any kind. Second, it’s important to recognize that beverages are not causing the rise we’ve seen in obesity and obesity-related conditions. This is evidenced by the fact that obesity rates continued to rise for years while soda consumption dropped steadily at the same time. Bottom line: millions of people around the world trust us because, for generations, our industry has made products that are refreshing, convenient and, above all, safe.

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