A link has been found between the replacement of sugary drinks with coffee, tea or water and a reduced risk of early death among adults with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in The British Medical Journal.
The study's findings emphasise the importance of healthy beverage choices for managing risk among people with type 2 diabetes.
More than 500 million adults worldwide were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2021, with the number is expected to rise to 783 million by 2045.
The role of diet in managing diabetes is crucial, but information about the intake of specific beverages and their impact on death and cardiovascular disease (CVD) rates among adults with type 2 diabetes has been limited.
Dr Jane Doe, one of the study's authors, emphasised the significance of the research. She said: “This is an important finding considering the increasing prevalence of this condition worldwide.”
To address this knowledge gap, researchers analysed data from 15,486 adults (74 per cent women, average age 61) with type 2 diabetes, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study in the US.
Beverage consumption was assessed through a validated food questionnaire, updated every two to four years.
During an average follow-up of 18.5 years, 3,447 cases of CVD and 7,638 deaths were recorded.
The study found that participants with the highest intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) had a 20 per cent increased risk of death from any cause compared to those with the lowest intake. Conversely, high intakes of certain beverages, such as coffee, tea, plain water and low-fat milk, were associated with lower mortality rates.
Dr Doe said: “We observed that individuals who increased their consumption of coffee, tea, or water after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had an 18 per cent lower risk of dying early compared to those who did not change their drinking habits.”
The study's observational nature means it cannot establish causality. However, its large sample size, long follow-up period, and detailed assessments of dietary and lifestyle variables contribute to the evidence supporting the importance of beverage choices for overall health among adults with diabetes.
When asked whether weight loss and remission from type 2 diabetes can result in long-term benefits, such as reducing the risk of complications including cardiovascular disease and kidney failure, Roy Taylor, Professor of Medicine and Metabolism at Newcastle University, said: “Yes. The estimated 10 year risk of having a heart attack or stroke drops to a half of the previous raised level.
“However, people do need to avoid weight regain for this benefit to persist. If all the weight is regained there is 100 per cent chance that the diabetes will return — and the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Nita Forouhi, of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, noted in a linked editorial that questions remain such as the impact of adding sugar to coffee or tea, or the effects of other popular drinks like milkshakes and smoothies.
Ms Forouhi wrote: “The case for avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages is compelling in the general population, and it is reasonable to shift the focus to drinks that are most likely to have positive health effects: coffee, tea, plain water, and low-fat milk.”
Dr Doe concluded: “Our findings provide additional evidence that emphasises the importance of beverage choices in maintaining overall health among adults with diabetes.
“Further studies are warranted to replicate and further explore these important associations.”
In light of the findings, the authors of the study suggest that healthcare professionals and policymakers should consider promoting healthier beverage choices among people with type 2 diabetes as part of a comprehensive approach to managing the disease and reducing its associated risks.