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Australian soft drinks linked to diabetes risk

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Australian soft drinks have higher levels of glucose that could be linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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Global analysis by researchers at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute found that in four popular soft drinks, total glucose concentration was 22 per cent higher in Australian formulations compared to similar drinks in the US.

The report published in the Medical Journal of Australia has led to calls for an examination of the health effects of Australian soft drink formulations.

“Given that glucose, but not fructose, rapidly elevates plasma glucose and insulin, regular consumption of Australian soft drinks has potential health implications regarding Type 2 diabetes and its complications,” said Professor Bronwyn Kingwell, head of Metabolic and Vascular Physiology at the Baker Institute.

Australian soft drinks are chiefly sweetened through sugarcane-derived sucrose – made up of 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose. In the US they are predominantly sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, and sugar beet in Europe.

Prof Kingwell said the findings were particularly relevant for Australians who were high consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

A recent Australian Health Survey estimated that 39 per cent of all men and 29 per cent of women are regular consumers of SSBs.

The potential adverse effects of fructose over-consumption are well known, particularly with regards to potential build-up of fat in the liver and links with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

But little is known about the health effects of Australian soft drink consumption containing high glucose concentrations, said Prof Kingwell.

“The potential health implications of regional differences in soft drink sugar content have not previously been examined, despite the differing metabolic effects of glucose and fructose,” wrote the report authors.

“Our short report should motivate specific examination of the health effects of Australian soft drink formulations.”

-AAP

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