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Sugary drink consumption increases cancer risk, research suggests

11 July 2019

Scientists already know that sugary food and drink causes weight gain and that overweight and obese people have a greater risk of cancer.

The same volume of traditional fizzy drink increased the overall cancer risk by 18 per cent and the breast cancer risk by 22 per cent.

Sugar-based drinks are being drunk more than ever across the globe and their consumption is linked to obesity, which itself increases the chances of getting cancer.

Cutting down on the amount of sugary drinks we all consume, together with sugar taxes and restrictions on marketing, might help reduce the cancer burden, say the authors.

Published in the BMJ British medical journal, this study analysed data from 101,257 French adults - 21% of them men and 79% women - and assessed their intake or sugary drinks.

The participants were engaged in the study for up to nine years and they were required to answer two 24-hour certified dietary questionnaires online.

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The results showed a link between both types of drinks and cancer, due to the large amount of sugar in both.

For every extra 100ml per day consumed on top of this, a person's cancer risk increased by 18pc for all cancers and, among women, by 22pc for breast cancer.

Among women with the highest intake, the risk of breast cancer increased by 37pc.

For those people who drank the most fruit juice or sugary drinks, at 185.8ml per day on average, consuming an extra 100ml per day - just over a large 250ml glass of fruit juice - was linked to a 30% increased risk of all cancers.

Other explanations for the link between sugary drinks and cancer could be the high glycaemic load of sugary drinks, they said.

They pointed to other research which suggested that sugary drinks promoted body fat around the abdomen, even if a person was a healthy weight, which in turn promoted the growth of tumours.

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The new study is likely to reignite the debate as to whether policy makers should discourage consumption of fruit juices.

The research spanned a five-year period, starting when the participants were aged 42 on average.

Daily consumption of sugary drinks - sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices - and artificially sweetened or diet beverages were calculated and first cases of cancer reported by participants were validated by medical records and linked with health insurance national databases.

"More research is needed to understand if there is a direct link between sugary drinks and cancer", she added.

Touvier suggested that people should stick to public health guidelines that recommend limiting sugary drinks to a maximum of one glass a day.

The authors warned that this finding should be interpreted with caution, as this type of beverage had a relatively low consumption among the study participants. "Instead, rely on water to quench your thirst".

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"All beverages - either with sugar or without - are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet", the American Beverage Institute said in a statement.

Sugary drink consumption increases cancer risk, research suggests