Does Soda Cause Cancer?

Expert Analysis Highlights:

  • While drinks like soda are notoriously loaded with sugar, the direct impact on pancreas cancer remains unknown
  • Attention on drinks and cancer began when a flawed study from Harvard was published years ago in the very prestigious New England Journal of Medicine
  • For now, keep in mind that while sugar-loaded may not cause cancer, drinking more than a moderate amount of soda is bad for your health

Every few years a study comes out suggesting that a drink like coffee or soda is associated with cancer, and pancreas cancer is the most common type implicated.  The attention on drinks began when a flawed study from Harvard naming coffee as a cause of pancreatic cancer was published years ago in the very prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.  Well that may have been one of the most embarrassing studies that journal ever published.  The design flaw of the study was clear to everyone after the publication.  The sigh of relief lasted a while until a theory surfaced that the sugar in soda could overstimulate the pancreas.   This theory is based on the premise that the massive sugar load in modern day drinks is unnatural and the pancreas was not designed to handle such an over-stimulation.  You see the pancreas is responsible for sugar regulation, producing important hormones like insulin and glucagon to control a body’s uptake and use of sugar.

The truth is that while drinks like soda are notoriously loaded with sugar (several teaspoons worth), the direct impact on pancreas cancer remains unknown.  Some studies have suggested the association, like a recent study from the University of Minnesota published this year, but they have not had the statistical power to prove the association.  Demonstrating the association, if present, would take lots of patients.

Soda’s do not appear to be a direct cause of pancreatic cancer although I believe that future research may show how the sugar load is harmful to the pancreas.  For now, keep in mind that while sugar-loaded may not cause cancer, drinking more than a moderate amount of soda is bad for your health.  Furthermore, it is well-recognized that sugary drinks play a part in our American obesity epidemic–a problem rampant among children in particular.  And obesity is a known risk factor for cancer, heart attacks, and premature death.

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