Regular cola drinking linked to diabetes in pregnancy, says study

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

New research suggests that women who drink sugary cola drinks regularly could be at higher risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy.

Defined as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), this form of diabetes is one of the most common pregnancy complications, and can lead to type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. Children whose mothers have had GDM are also at increased risk from obesity, glucose intolerance, and early onset diabetes.

Writing in a paper to be published in the December 2009 edition of Diabetes Care​, scientists sought to deepen understanding of the causes of GDM by studying a group of 13,475 women from the Nurses Health Study II.

Risk factor

Looking at the 860 cases of GDM that developed in the 10-year follow-up study, the scientists found that, after adjusting for known risk factors, intake of sugar-sweetened cola was positively associated with higher risk of GDM.

“Compared with women who consumed less than 1 serving per month, those who consumed more than 5 servings per week of sugar-sweetened cola had a 22 per cent greater GDM risk,” ​said study author Liwei Chen, assistant professor of epidemiology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

While the data indicated a link between GDM and sugary cola, no relationship was found for other sugar-sweetened drinks. The reason for this is not clear, but Chen said one of the explanations could be the tremendous popularity of cola in the US.


As for the link between GDM and cola, the study authors were again unsure of the underlying mechanism, but put forward several possible explanations.

They said consuming a large amount of sugar-sweetened beverages could contribute to a high glycemic load (GL) by providing a large amount of rapidly absorbable sugars. High-GL foods induce a greater plasma glucose response after eating, which can result in insulin resistance and impaired pancreatic beta cell function. Higher sugar intake itself may also lead to impaired pancreatic cell function.

Commenting on the significance of the study, Chen said: “This is the first study on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on GDM risk.

“This finding is important because sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of added sugars in the American diet, particularly in the age group most likely to conceive. Cutting down sugary drinks is clearly an important way to reduce this common pregnancy complication.”

Source: Diabetes Care

December 2009 vol. 32 no. 12 2236-2241

Available online now at

“A Prospective Study of Pre-Gravid Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and the Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus”

Authors: L. Chen; F.B. Hu; E. Yeung; W. Willet; C. Zhang

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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