That Sugar Movement


Sugary drinks increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, regardless of weight

170714_TSF_BlogHero_02Research has shown the risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to excess added sugar intake is often mediated by excessive weight gain.

Now, according to new research, development of type 2 diabetes may be linked with consuming too much of the sweet stuff independent of weight gain.

In new Australian-led research, data collected from the 40,000 people-strong Thai Cohort Study assessed correlation between sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and incidence of type 2 diabetes.1

Within this Asian population, researchers found women drinking one or more SSB a day were at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The correlation was mediated through obesity in some, but the risk was also identified without weight gain in others.

The association was not identified in this study in men, but the study authors suspect this may be apparent “…at higher consumption levels (by men) than we observed here…” and as women, in general, have lower muscle mass and energy needs compared with men, they are more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes.1

“Sugary drinks are an ideal target for public health interventions to help control the type 2 diabetes epidemic since they have no nutritional value and do not protect against disease,” says lead author Keren Papier from a PhD candidate from the ANU Research School of Population Health.

“Over 4,000 cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented annually in the Thai population if people avoided drinking sugary drinks daily. Thai women, who are at double the risk of type 2 diabetes from drinking sugary drinks, would be the main beneficiaries.”

In Australia, about 85% of the 1.2million people with diabetes have been diagnosed with type 2, and it is thought up to 500,000 Australians are living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.2 That is a lot of people. An intervention aimed at reducing sugary drink intake could have a profound impact on the health of our nation.

While playing a huge role, sugary drinks should be considered in the context of an entire diet, and reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes will require a multi-faceted approach. Those that consume one or more SSB daily may have a poorer quality of diet overall, comprising more processed and packaged foods over the nourishing, whole and real stuff.

Sugar, diet and type 2 diabetes

Added sugar is often found in processed and packaged foods, and unbeknownst to us, we can be consuming too much. While excess added sugar can up the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it may not be the sole cause but in conjunction with a poor diet overall.

A diet comprised largely of heavily processed and packaged food does not adequately fuel the body to perform optimally, instead creating a burden for the various body systems that tirelessly pump, renew, eliminate and protect us against disease and early death.

We need to offer our body the best chance to thrive. This is why we are big advocates for consuming real, whole food whenever possible.

Just eat real food
Just eat real food

While the occasional treat is fine, a good place to start eating in a more nourishing way is to limit added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons/25g (or less) a day. Inadvertently, you should find yourself reaching for real and whole foods instead, choosing nuts over a cookie, whole oats over corn flakes, or an apple over a bottle of juice, for example.

Reducing added sugar intake is part of the picture; fuelling up on real food, including a variety of veg, is where good health really begins. That Sugar Guide offers a great kick-start to real food eating – be sure to check it out.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)



  1. Papier, K, D’Este, C, Bain, C, Banwell, C, Seubsman, S, Sleigh, A, & Jordan, S 2017, ‘Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes incidence in Thai adults: results from an 8-year prospective study’, Nutrition & Diabetes, vol. 7, no. 6, p. e283.
  2. Diabetes Australia 2015, Diabetes in Australia, viewed 12 July 2017, <>
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