Monday, February 8, 2010

Soft Drinks & Pancreatic Cancer

Soft drinks are linked with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. We can't speculate too much on the mechanism because this is an observational study, but the increased risk may be working through effects of the hormone insulin.
Noel Mueller, lead author of study February issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Mueller's research notes that people who consume over two soft drinks per week are likely to double their risk of the deadly pancreatic cancer. The study was a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and National University of Singapore. It involved over 60,000 middle-aged or older Chinese Singaporeans. Researchers calculated how much juice and soda the participants drank on average and followed them for 14 years to see how many developed cancer of the pancreas. Based on this long-term approach, the research revealed that people who drank two or more sodas a week were 87 percent more likely to develop this cancer than those who didn't consume any soda.

The research also found no link between juice consumption and cancer risk. Previous research in U.S. and European populations has suggested an association between sweetened sodas and pancreatic cancer. This is the first study that has examined this association in an Asian population, though researchers believe that the findings will likely prove true for Western populations due to similarity of lifestyle and diet.

Type 2 diabetes, a disorder of blood sugar levels and insulin under-activity, has also been linked in studies to pancreatic cancer. Researchers suggest that high levels of blood sugar are associated with drinking soda and an associated increase in insulin levels. This increase prompts pancreatic cells to divide abnormally. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks can lead to weight gain, obesity, and eventually diabetes. Both obesity and diabetes are associated with higher risk of pancreatic cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in the US.

Some researches however have observed that the report should not cause undue alarm as adult soda drinkers are likely to engage in other lifestyle habits, including smoking, which may also contribute to the elevated risk.

The soft drink industry on the other hand disputes the findings. Richard Adamson, a consultant to the American Beverage Association and former scientific director of the NCI said:
The [study] authors are skipping several steps in trying to connect soft drinks with pancreatic cancer, including an allegation regarding an increase in insulin production. The fact remains that soft drinks do not cause cancer, nor do any authoritative bodies, such as NCI, name soft drinks as a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. You can be a healthy person and enjoy soft drinks. The key to a healthy lifestyle is balance -- eating a variety of foods and beverages in moderation along with getting regular physical activity.
All in all, it might be wise to consider a more cautious view of the situation - soda is not a food and does not belong to any food group. Eat healthy, and remember that moderation is the best mantra for all consumption and lifestyle related issue.