Researchers have found that sweetened drinks are a bigger contributor to diabetes risk than other foods. According to the study, sugary foods that are low in nutrients produce more harmful effects than fruit and other foods containing fructose.
Study lead author Dr. John Sievenpiper is a researcher in the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada.
“These findings might help guide recommendations on important food sources of fructose in the prevention and management of diabetes,” said Dr. Sievenpiper. “But the level of evidence is low and more high quality studies are needed.”
Fructose occurs naturally in foods such as fruits and natural fruit juices, vegetables, and honey. Fructose is also added to foods such as soft drinks and desserts as “free sugars.”
Many studies have suggested that fructose plays a major role in the development of diabetes and heart disease. To investigate, the research team analyzed 155 studies involving the impact of fructose sugars on blood glucose levels in people with and without diabetes.
The analysis revealed that most foods containing fructose sugars do not have a harmful effect on blood glucose levels when these foods do not come along with excess calories.
The experts also found that fruits and healthy fruit juices can even have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin control, especially in people with diabetes. On the other hand, several foods that added excess “nutrient poor” energy to the diet, particularly sweetened drinks, seemed to have harmful effects.
The study authors acknowledged some limitations, such as small sample sizes, short follow-up periods, and limited variety of foods in some trials.
“Until more information is available, public health professionals should be aware that harmful effects of fructose sugars on blood glucose seem to be mediated by energy and food source,” wrote the researchers.
The study is published in the journal The BMJ.