Swapping out a single daily sweet drink for water or unsweetened tea or coffee can lower the risk of diabetes by up to 25%, a new research suggests.

Drinking tea instead of soda or hot chocolate every day can reduce the risk of diabetes by up to 25%. Photograph: incamerastock/Alamy

The study monitored the food diaries of 25,000 men and women aged 40 to 79 in Norfolk, England, over 11 years. During the study, 847 participants were diagnosed with new-onset type 2 diabetes, and the team wanted to see if sugary drinks (such as sodas and squashes) had any effect on the onset of diabetes.

They found that replacing one soft drink or sweetened-milk beverage a day with a serving of water or unsweetened tea or coffee reduced the incidence of diabetes by 14% to 25%.

“Our findings suggest that reducing consumption of sweet beverages, in particular soft drinks and sweetened-milk beverages, and promoting drinking water and unsweetened tea or coffee as alternatives may help curb the escalating diabetes epidemic,” the authors concluded.

There was also a social component to the type of sweet drinks people preferred, authors said. People who drank sweetened coffee or tea were more likely to come from a lower class and have a generally less healthy diet, whereas people from a higher class tended to drink more fruit juice. Lead scientist Nita Forouhi, of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge, said:

“The good news is that our study provides evidence that replacing a daily serving of a sugary soft drink or sugary milk drink with water or unsweetened tea or coffee can help to cut the risk of diabetes, offering practical suggestions for healthy alternative drinks for the prevention of diabetes.

Indeed, the main takeaway is: even a small, constant change, something as having a water instead of a soda, can have a huge long-term impact on your health.

“Our new findings on the potential to reduce the burden of diabetes by reducing the percentage of energy consumed from sweet beverages add further important evidence to the recommendation from the World Health Organisation to limit the intake of free sugars in our diet.”

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