By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times February 27, 2013
In a finding certain to put new pressure on the purveyors of sugary foods and drinks, a worldwide analysis shows that regardless of its effect on obesity, the ebb and flow of sugar in a country’s diet strongly influences the diabetesrate there.
The new study provides compelling evidence that obesity isn’t driving the worldwide pandemic of Type 2 diabetes as much as the rising consumption of sugar — largely in the form of sweetened sodas, experts said.
Increases in sugar intake account for a third of new cases of diabetes in the United States and a quarter of cases worldwide, according to calculations published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE. In the 175 countries studied, a 150-calorie daily increase in the availability of sugar — about the equivalent of a can of Coke or Pepsi — raises the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes by 1.1%, a research team from Stanford University and UC San Francisco found.
Dr. Walter Willett, a nutritionist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the results almost certainly underestimated the role of added sugar in the development of diabetes, since the data didn’t distinguish between sugar that comes from fresh fruit and sugar that is concentrated in junk foods and sodas with no other nutrients.
The results make clear that sugar consumption “is fueling the global epidemic of diabetes,” and that reducing that consumption is an essential step in controlling the rise of the disorder, said Willett, who was not involved in the study.
Over the last half-century, the increasing availability of sugar has made 62 new calories available every day to each man, woman and child on Earth. Most of that extra sugar has been produced in the last decade, as the U.S., China and other countries have vastly expanded their production of sweetener for the world market.
The result has been a global rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese, with an estimated 1.4 billion adults over 20 falling into one of those categories, according to the World Health Organization. Type 2 diabetes was once a disease of affluence, but it now affects an estimated 312 million people in rich and poor countries alike; WHO estimates that diabetes deaths — largely due to cardiovascular disease — will increase by two-thirds to about 5.7 million by the year 2030…