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Simplifying Science

Sugar Cancer?

A new study is making big waves this summer. The highly respected medical journal BMJ published research on more than 100,000 people, looking at their risk of cancer relative to their consumption of sugary or artificially sweetened drinks. Here’s what they found: over a 9-year study period, the people who drank the highest volume of sugar-sweetened (but not artificially sweetened) beverages also had the highest risk of cancer – 30% higher for all cancer and 37% higher for breast cancer – compared with those who drank the least.

For people who want to see the actual study, the link is here. If you’re not used to reading scientific research, the NY Times summary is here. Worth noting: 100% fruit juice was associated with increased cancer risk as were sugar sweetened sports drinks and energy drinks too, so we’re not just talking super-sweet sodas.

What underlies the association? Some is accounted for with weight gain, because excess weight can cause certain types of cancer. Some seems to be a function of visceral adiposity, which refers to fat stored in the abdomen, generally around organs like the liver and pancreas. This is often called active fat because it influences how some hormones function, which is why visceral adiposity impacts things like glycemic index. (For those not in the know, higher glycemic index diets are highly associated with type 2 diabetes.) Perhaps the various chemicals added to or found in these sweetened drinks – from colorings to pesticides – are also culpable, but no one yet knows for sure.

Ultimately, this data leads me to a mantra I have repeated over and over through the years: drink water, lots of it, until your pee starts to look light yellow or even crystal clear.

A new study suggests there may be a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juices and the development of cancer.

The study is observational and does not claim that drinking sugary drinks causes cancer. But after controlling for known variables, French researchers did find an association.

The study, in BMJ, involved 101,257 people, average age 42, who had filled out repeated 24-hour food-intake questionnaires. The form listed 97 sugary drinks and...READ MORE