Sipping with the enemy

Well it’s about time someone put two and two together and didn’t come up with three.

According to a new study, easy access to sugary food and drinks is at least partially to blame for skyrocketing diabetes rates across the world.

Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to get the American Diabetes Association to come up with the same conclusion.

Keep in mind that this is the same organization that advises diabetics to consume 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal. (Yes, you read that right. Not per day–per meal.) They even go so far as to say that it doesn’t matter what form the carbohydrate comes in–ice cream, it seems, is just as good as broccoli.

But already, I digress. Back to the study at hand.

Researchers found that for every 150 additional calories worth of sugar available to each person every day, rates of type 2 diabetes increased by roughly 1 percent.

That’s a deadly influence from what amounts to just a single can of soda per day. And it persisted even after the researchers accounted for other obvious factors–like total calorie intake, obesity rates, and aging.

Over the course of the decade, this translated to a 27 percent rise in worldwide diabetes cases. At least a quarter of this increase was attributable to sugary food availability. And that’s not something you could say about any other food category.

Not surprisingly, this study found that diabetes rates rose in a dose-dependent manner. In other words, the longer and heavier a population’s high sugar exposure was, the worse the outcome.

In fact, living just one year in a locale where sugar was a prominent feature in the food supply was enough to increase diabetes rates. And the impact only strengthened with each additional year.

Obviously, it’s important to be able to pinpoint diabetes risk factors. As it is, almost one out of every ten adults suffers from the condition worldwide.

And that number is only going up… right alongside obesity rates.

Yes, we have to start pushing for better nutrition and more exercise. But that’s just not enough.

With sugar access being such a strong independent factor behind the runaway diabetes epidemic, we truly need public health policies that can help to put an end to its reign of terror. Especially in developing countries–places where we’re seeing diabetes rates rise rapidly, even when obesity isn’t at play.

Yet somehow, there’s an enormous amount of public pressure–or maybe it’s really just from Big Agribusiness and companies like Coca Cola–to resist regulation of sugar consumption.

Just look at what happened in New York City. The ban limiting the sale of soda to 16 ounce containers has been stopped in its tracks in court. And every day that the appeals drag on, a hundred more people will be diagnosed with diabetes.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Sugar kills. Americans protect Big Soda’s right to poison them at their own peril. I just hope they realize it before it’s too late.

The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873.