It should come as no surprise that added sugars in foods and drinks contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. For the first time, scientists have established an assocaiton between sweetened drinks and the development of bowel cancer early in life. Colorectal cancer is most often associated with a high intake of processed meat. But new research published in the journal, Gut, concludes that consuming two or more drinks sweetened with sugar every day in adolescence or adulthood is associated with a doubling in risk of developing early-onset colorectal cancer (before age 50).
Each serving of sweetened beverages was associated with a 16% higher risk of developing cancer. Moreover, that risk was associated with a 32% higher chance with a daily serving during the teenage years.
Cases of early-onset colorectal cancer have risen over the past couple decades. However, researchers aren’t exactly sure what is behind the rising trend; the study showed correlation with sweetened drinks, not causation.
According to Eurekalert.org, in the US, adults born around 1990 run twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer of adults born around 1950.
It’s estimated that approxiately 12% of the US population consumes at least three sugary drinks a day. Common types of beverages with added sugars include energy drinks, sports drinks, soda/soft drinks and fruit juice. These beverages account for the leading source of added sugars in the US diet; almost 40% of added sugars come from these drinks.
Researchers examined information provided by 95,464 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, an ongoing monitoring study of 116,429 US female registered nurses aged between 25 and 42 at enrollment in 1989, EurekaAlert.org reports. Researchers found 109 women developed bowel cancer before the age of 50, during the 24-year observational study.
High-fructose corn syrup, a synthetic added sugar that raises blood sugar levels and causes insulin resistance, has the potential to block satiety signals to the brain. This causes cravings for more sugar. Furthermore, the overconsumption of added sugars, researchers believe, impairs the gastrointestinal tract’s ability to prevent undigested food and toxins from escaping into the bloodstream—a condition known as intestinal permeability or leaky gut—which could promote the development of cancer.