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Drinking fruit juice may raise cancer risk, study claims

14 July 2019

"Surprisingly perhaps, the increased risk of cancer in heavier consumers of sugary drinks was observed even among consumers of pure fruit juice - this warrants more research".

"These results need replication in other large-scale prospective studies".

What counts as a sugary drink?

Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. When the researchers analyzed the risk for 100% fruit juices separately, these also elevated the risk of overall cancer and breast cancer.

During this time, the researchers looked at the risk of "overall, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer". The study concluded that drinking 100 ml of sugary drinks a day (about two cans per week) increases the risk of cancer by 18%. The study tracked more than 100,000 people over five years.

During follow-up 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed and validated (693 breast cancers, 291 prostate cancers, and 166 colorectal cancers).

On average, men consumed more sugary drinks than women - 90.3 ml daily compared to 74.6 ml.

Consumption of sugary drinks has increased worldwide during the last few decades. A result that does not prove the connection of cause and effect, but which demonstrates a "significant association", they explain.

Amelia Lake from Teesside University in the United Kingdom said that although the study did not confirm the causal relationship between sugar and cancer, it did indicate that it is important to reduce sugar intake.

However, the study said it was not the whole story.

Scientists said that the correlation between sugary drinks and the risk of cancer might be reasoned by their impact on weight gain, on a part, considering that obesity is viewed as a risk factor for numerous types of cancer.

So what might be going on?

But again, researchers say sugar is not the only culprit. They also suspect that some chemicals incorporated, such as those that give a handsome color to the product, are also to blame. However, their research did not intend to answer this question.

"I find the biological plausibility of this hard, given there was no significant difference between groups in relation to body weight or incidence of diabetes, which is often cited as an associated risk", Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian, said.

However, the report's authors noted that further investigations were needed to solidify the significance of their findings.

"Sugary drinks are known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, overweight, obesity and diabetes", said Dr Touvier.

However, there is no conclusive evidence that sugary beverages are necessarily carcinogenic, and experts have called for more research.

"These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence".

The UK introduced a sugar tax in 2018, with manufacturers having to pay a levy on high-sugar drinks they produce.

Drinking fruit juice may raise cancer risk, study claims