Background: Type 2 diabetes mellitus is an increasingly serious health problem among African American women. Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with an increased risk of diabetes in 2 studies but not in a third; however, to our knowledge, no data are available on African Americans regarding this issue. Our objective was to examine the association between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in African American women.
Methods: A prospective follow-up study of 59,000 African American women has been in progress since 1995. Participants reported on food and beverage consumption in 1995 and 2001. Biennial follow-up questionnaires ascertained new diagnoses of type 2 diabetes. The present analyses included 43,960 women who gave complete dietary and weight information and were free from diabetes at baseline. We identified 2713 incident cases of type 2 diabetes mellitus during 338,884 person-years of follow-up. The main outcome measure was the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Results: The incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus was higher with higher intake of both sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit drinks. After adjustment for confounding variables including other dietary factors, the incidence rate ratio for 2 or more soft drinks per day was 1.24 (95% confidence interval, 1.06-1.45). For fruit drinks, the comparable incidence rate ratio was 1.31 (95% confidence interval, 1.13-1.52). The association of diabetes with soft drink consumption was almost entirely mediated by body mass index, whereas the association with fruit drink consumption was independent of body mass index.
Conclusions: Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit drinks is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in African American women. While there has been increasing public awareness of the adverse health effects of soft drinks, little attention has been given to fruit drinks, which are often marketed as a healthier alternative to soft drinks.