Sugary Drinks and Cancer

Is There a Scientific Link Between Sugary Drinks and Cancer?

A study concluded that consuming an additional 100 ml of sugary drink per day-about two cans per week-would raise cancer risk by 18%. There were 22 cancers for every 1,000 people in the sample. According to the researchers, if they all drank an additional 100 ml a day, there would be four more cancers: a total of 26 per 1,000 per five years.

“However, this suggests that there is a genuine causal correlation between the consumption of sugary drinks and the growth of cancer, and more study may prove something unknown now,” said Dr. Graham Wheeler, Statistician University College London.

Of the 2,193 cancers found in the study, 693 were breast cancers, 291 were prostate cancers, and 166 were colorectal cancers.

Is this definitive proof?


The way the analysis takes place means that it could spot trends in the results but cannot explain them. So it found that the people who drank the most (about 185 ml a day) had more cancer cases than those who consumed the least (less than 30ml a day). But one potential reason is that sugary drinks raise the risk of cancer.

Alternatively, people who consume the most sugary beverages might have other unhealthy habits (eating more salt and calories than sleeping, for example). So these other habits boost their risk of cancer, and the sugary drinks themselves may be insignificant.

Therefore the research cannot conclude that sugary drinks cause cancer.

“While this research does not provide a conclusive causative approach to sugar and cancer, it brings to the overall image the value of the ongoing campaign to minimize our sugar consumption,” said Dr. Amelia Lake of Teesside University. Hence, she added, “It is crucial to reduce the amount of sugar in our diet.”

Is this just about obesity?

Obesity is a major cause of certain cancers. And heavy intake of sugary beverages will raise the risk of weight gain.

The report, however, shows it wasn’t the whole story.

Obesity and weight gain caused by excessive sugary-drink intake undoubtedly played a role in the association, but the whole association was not clarified,” said Dr. Mathilde Touvier, one of the researchers at BBC News.

What are sugary drinks?

The researchers described it as a drink containing more than 5% sugar.

Sugary drinks involve things like:

  • Standard cola, lemonade, and other sugar-sweetened soft drinks
  • Cordial and squash, such as a black currant juice cocktail,
  • Flavored water sweetened with sugar
  • Energy drinks and exercise drinks
  • Tea and coffee with added sugar or syrup
  • Milkshakes and the Hit

What about tea, coffee, and fruit juice? Are they part of sugary drink?

It is safer to drink water or unsweetened beverages. Such as tea or coffee, without added sugar. Additionally, there is evidence that coffee is likely to protect against liver and endometrial cancer.

It would be best if you did not consume fruit juices in large amounts. Because they are likely to encourage weight gain in the same way as sugar-sweetened beverages.

There is no clear evidence in humans that the sugary drinks with low energy content, such as soda diet, are a source of cancer. Evidence that chemically sweetened beverages help reduce weight gain is contradictory. The data available is inadequate to decide on chemically sweetened beverages.

Sugary drinks and health

When it comes to rating drinks best for our wellbeing, sugary drinks slip to the bottom of the list. Because they contain too many calories and practically have no other nutrients. People who consume sugary drinks do not feel as full as if they had consumed the same calories from solid food. And research also suggests that they do not compensate for these drinks’ high caloric content by consuming less food. The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch contains around 150 calories. Almost all of them are from added sugar. If you were to drink only one of these sugary drinks a day and not cut down on calories elsewhere, you might get up to five pounds a year. Beyond weight gain, these sugar-laden drinks will raise the risk of: 

  • Type 2 diabetes, 
  • Heart disease, 
  • And other chronic diseases. 

Besides, a higher intake of sugary drinks can increase the risk of premature death. 

What do the researchers say?

The team at Université Sorbonne Paris Cité says that more large-scale studies are needed to corroborate the results.

“Sugary drinks are known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, overweight, obesity, and diabetes,” said Dr. Touvier. ” But what we’re showing is that sugary drinks are also associated with cancer risk, maybe.”

They claim that their study is further evidence that taxing sugary beverages is a good idea.

“These data support the relevance of current nutritional recommendations to limit the consumption of sugar drinks, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy measures, such as taxation and marketing restrictions for sugar drinks,” the study states.

The UK implemented a sugar tax in 2018. The companies have to pay a levy on the high-sugar drinks they make.

Biological sampling and clinical examination

Participants in the nutrient-Santé study were invited, voluntarily, to visit one of the local centers explicitly set up for biological sampling and clinical review. They included bioimpedance measurements in each area (83 hospital centers). 

A visceral fat index was measured using a calibrated impedance body composition analyzer. As a result, the visceral fat index ranges from 0 to 60 units and is excessive when more than 12 units are present. These biological and clinical data were obtained for 19,772 cohort participants, of which 15,637 pertained to the research sample in the present study.

What do drinks companies have to say?

The British Soft Drinks Association claimed that the study “does not provide evidence of cause, as the authors readily admit.” Its CEO, Gavin Partington, added: “Soft drinks are healthy to eat as part of a balanced diet.

” The soft drinks industry acknowledges that it has a role to play in helping address obesity, which is why we have led the way in reducing calories and sugar.”


In this broad prospective study, sugary beverages’ intake was positively correlated with the risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. 100% fruit juices were also favorably associated with the risk of overall cancer. These findings need to be repeated in other large-scale prospective studies. They propose that sugary drinks, which are commonly consumed in western countries, may represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention.

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