By Margarita Nahapetyan
People who drink at least two sweet soft drinks a day are almost at a double risk of developing deadly pancreatic cancer, compared to non-soda drinkers, says a new research published earlier this week.
The findings are based on a 14-year-old Singapore Chinese Health Study that followed more than 60,000 people in Singapore. The study enrolled those who lived in government housing estates - as nearly 9 in every 10 people in Singapore do - and analyzed their food habits, physical activity, genetic history, occupational exposure and medical history.
In the study, the experts, leaded by a principal author Noel T. Mueller, MPH, a research associate at the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C., divided the consumption of soft drinks and juices into three categories: none, less than two drinks a week, or two or more drinks per week. The team also took into consideration other risk factors, such as advancing age, smoking, diabetes, and body mass index (BMI).
The results revealed that those who drank two or more sodas a week (with an average number of five), demonstrated the 87 per cent increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. No link was found between juice consumption and pancreatic cancer risk, most probably because fruit juice has less effect on glucose and insulin levels than sugary sodas, the authors noted.
Previous research in U.S. and European populations has suggested that there is an association between sweetened sodas and juices and pancreatic cancer. This new study appears to be the first to examine this link in an Asian population, although the researchers assume that the findings can be applied to Western countries as well. "Singapore is a wealthy country with excellent healthcare. Favourite pastimes are eating and shopping, so the findings should apply to other western countries," they said and pointed out that while sugar may be to blame, people who drink sugar-sweetened soda very often have other poor health habits.
The pancreas is located behind the stomach. It makes hormones such as insulin to balance sugar in the blood and produces juices with enzymes to help break down fats and protein in foods. The risk for pancreatic cancer rises with age and, according to American Cancer Society estimates, in 2009 the deadly disease was diagnosed in about 42,000 individuals in the United States, and about 35,240 deaths from the disease were expected.
Jennifer Sygo, a nutritionist with the Cleveland Clinic, says that there is not the same level of research and studies available for sugar as there is for salt. But she points out guidelines by the American Heart Association, which recommends that women should not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar a day (6.5 teaspoons), and men should not consume more than 38 grams of added sugar a day (9.5 teaspoons).
The findings appear in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.