by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health
Â Drinking an average of five sodas a week doesnât sound like much… but what would you say upon learning that they nearly double your risk of getting pancreatic cancer — one of the deadliest of all malignancies?
Â This shocking statistic about soda comes from a study at the University of Minnesota. Researchers analyzed medical records and diet histories of 60,524 Asian adults over a 14-year period (the records came from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, the Singapore Cancer Registry and the Singapore Registry of Births and Deaths), comparing consumption of soft drinks (in one group) and fruit juice (in another group) with the incidence of pancreatic cancer… and found that the incidence was 87% higher among those who drank soda.
Â The researchers established that this link was independent of other risk factors
— such as smoking, body weight, type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, caloric intake and the consumption of red meat. Having established that lifestyles in Singapore are very similar to those in the US, lead study author Noel Mueller, MPH, research associate at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, assured me thereâs nothing uniquely dangerous about soda in Singapore — itâs the same stuff people drink here. Acknowledging that there are some genetic differences between the populations, he told me that he doesnât think that those are as significant as the fact that soda drinkers likely donât have the same healthy habits as fruit juice drinkers.
Â Not So Sweet
Â Researchers hypothesize that sugar is the culprit, with 12.5 teaspoons of sugar (usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup) in a 16-ounce, 200-calorie sugar-sweetened soda, on average — thatâs enough to trigger the pancreas to produce a surge of insulin. Dr. Mueller theorizes that this habitual “blasting” of the pancreas with so much sugar may stimulate cancerous tumor growth over time. Though fruit juice is also high in sugar, researchers think that the nutrients and fiber in juices may buffer any unhealthy impact.
Â The resulting advice to limit sugar intake is predictable, of course — but Iâm guessing that even those of us who already do that have vastly underestimated the potential damage that even a few sodas a week can do. This is no time for sweet talk: Stay away from sugary soda.Â
Noel T. Mueller, MPH, research associate, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC.