Hard data on soft drinks

According to the market research group MarketLine, the global market for soft drinks stands at around US$300 billion annually. The soft drink industry spans sparkling drinks, concentrates, juices, bottled water, smoothies, ready-to-drink tea and coffee, and functional drinks. Thankfully, a new report published in April 2013 by another market research company, Canadean, has estimated that within two years sales of bottled water will have grown within this category to exceed sales of soft drinks. Most of the growth in water sales is coming from Asia, where the beverage is growing in sales at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Still, soft drink sales remain lamentably high considering that they are virtually devoid of nutrition and have a range of possible negative effects. Indeed, you don’t have to be quaffing lots of soft drinks to have potential problems. A new study has shown that drinking just one soft drink a day can significantly increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

For the study, researchers looked at data gathered from 350,000 people across the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. Digging into the data, researchers looked at consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, artificially sweetened soft drinks, juices and nectars. They then compared 12,000 people who had developed type 2 diabetes to 16,000 comparable people who had not.

The analysis found that just one 336mL sugar-sweetened soft drink daily increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 22 per cent. When the researchers allowed for people who had a BMI that put them in the overweight range, that risk dropped back just a little to 18 per cent. This suggests that sugar-sweetened soft drinks increase diabetes risk by factors other than just increases in body weight.

A statistically significant increase in type 2 diabetes was also found with artificially sweetened soft drinks but the link disappeared if you took weight increase out of the equation. So it is probably only the increase in weight that is the link here.

The bottom line, though, is that soft drinks should not be a daily, habitual drink. At most, they should be an occasional choice when necessary. The tens of billions of dollars saved on soft drink expenditure could surely be spent on healthier, more uplifting things?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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