Four soda cans are in focus.
A new study suggests that a little more than one can of soda each day can more than double your diabetes risk. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

A new study by Swedish researchers says those who drink a little more than a can of soda each day—diet or regular—could double their risk of developing a form of diabetes.

While it’s a compelling finding, it needs further research, said Spectrum Health registered dietitian Lynn DeWitt, RD, CDE.

“It’s an interesting study, but you need to see what other research comes out,” DeWitt said. “You can’t base any recommendations on one or two studies. There needs to be more the evidence-based material.”

Researchers have long agreed that excessive soda consumption, diet or regular, is bad for your health.

The Swedish study, published recently by the European Society of Endocrinology, suggests that daily consumption of about 13.5 ounces of soda—slightly more than the typical 12-ounce can—could make a person more than twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

The study’s researchers said the “findings add support to the accumulating evidence suggesting that high intake of sweetened beverages, both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened, is a potential risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.”

Soda is not a nutritious drink and it’s certainly not good for those with diabetes, but people should not be so quick to draw firm conclusions from a single study, said DeWitt, a diabetes educator with the Spectrum Health Diabetes Education Program.

“I can clearly say that someone with diabetes should not drink regular pop because it’s pure sugar and will raise a person’s blood sugar level immediately,” she said.

Diet pop is always a viable alternative, but it should only be consumed in moderation, she said, noting that less is better.

Fruit juices are preferable to soda, meanwhile, but they also come with high sugar content. Juices that are billed as 100 percent natural still have high sugar content, even though the sugar is natural.

DeWitt pointed out that it takes four oranges just to make a half cup of juice. Eating the actual fruit itself remains the best approach for a healthy diet.

And the best source of fluid is water, DeWitt added.

Sound advice

Spectrum Health’s medical experts base their recommendations on the findings of professional groups and organizations such as the American Diabetes Association.

New studies are examined, but any advice provided to the public is based on years of research, DeWitt said.

Excess weight and a lack of exercise are among the surest paths to diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet leads to weight gain, which makes a person more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes.

And the disease comes with many risks. In the long run, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the feet, diseases of the eyes and heart and disorders of the kidney, among other problems.

Consequently, the proper steps to better health remain the same regardless of whether a person is diabetic or pre-diabetic, or is simply hoping to avoid the disease altogether.

The CDC keeps it simple—Eat right and stay active. Some tips from DeWitt and from the CDC on eating right:

  • Eat smaller portions and learn about proper serving sizes.
  • Eat less fat. Choose fewer high-fat foods and use less fat in cooking. Especially limit foods high in saturated fats or trans fat. Avoid fatty meat, fried foods, whole milk or dairy from whole milk, cakes, cookies, pastries, salad dressing, lard, shortening, margarine and nondairy creamers.
  • Avoid foods with high sugar content.
  • Limit your consumption of processed foods and takeout foods.
  • Learn what makes up a balanced diet and make it a goal to stick to it.
  • Keep carbohydrates in check, but don’t eliminate them completely—they’re an important source of energy. Beans and starchy vegetables are good sources.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Learn more about the Mediterranean or DASH diets.