Drinking one or more cans of sugary soft drinks a day is linked to an increased risk of diabetes in later life, a study suggests.
A can a day raises the relative risk of Type-2 diabetes by about a fifth, compared with one can a month or under, say European scientists.
The report in the journal Diabetologia mirrors previous US findings.
A diabetes charity recommends limiting sugary foods and drinks as they are calorific and can cause weight gain.
The latest research was carried out in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden, France and the Netherlands.
Some 350,000 individuals were questioned about their diet, as part of a large European study looking at links between diet and cancer.
“The consumption of sugar sweetened soft drinks increases your risk of diabetes – so for every can of soft drinks that you drink per day, the risk is higher,” lead researcher Dora Romaguera from Imperial College London told BBC News.
She called for clearer public health information on the effects of sugary soft drinks.
“Given the increase in sweet beverage consumption in Europe, clear messages on its deleterious effect on health should be given to the population,” Dr Romaguera and colleagues conclude in their research paper.
‘Not definitive evidence’
An increased risk of diabetes was also linked to drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks, but this disappeared when body mass index was taken into account.
Fruit juice consumption was not associated with diabetes incidence, however.
Commenting on the results, Dr Matthew Hobbs, head of research at Diabetes UK, said the link between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and Type-2 diabetes persisted even when body mass index was taken into account.
This suggests the increased risk is not solely due to extra calories, he said.
“Even so, it is not definitive evidence that sugar-sweetened soft drinks increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, other than through their effect on body weight,” he added.
“We do, though, already recommend limiting consumption of sugary foods and drinks as these are usually high in calories and so can lead to weight gain if you have too many of them.
“This is important for Type 2 diabetes because we know that maintaining a healthy weight is the single most important thing you can do to prevent it.”
Statistics expert Professor Patrick Wolfe, from University College London, said the absolute risk of Type-2 diabetes is low at about 4% of the adult UK population.
“In and of themselves, sugary soft drinks are only part of the picture – they’re just one of the potential risk factors for Type-2 diabetes,” he said.
“But since they are one we can easily eliminate – by switching to diet soft drinks or, even better, cutting them out of our diets altogether – it makes good sense to do so.”
Gavin Partington, director general of the drinks industry body the British Soft Drinks Association said: “Soft drinks are safe to consume but, like all other food and drink, should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.”