First, there is a need to understand the science behind the headlines and to examine exactly what was demonstrated. This study has only shown an association between sugary drink consumption and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. This does not mean that sugary drinks are the direct cause, it just shows that there is a link.

There could be many reasons for this association, the obvious one is that sugar-sweetened drinks are such an easy source of excess calories and that this causes obesity which is turn indirectly linked to diabetes risk. This study can be considered as representing an interesting delve into the field and is a stimulus for argument rather than proving anything specific. It does back up to some degree what researchers in the metabolic field have suspected for a long time, that a very high intake of refined sugar is detrimental to health.

A study of this type cannot prove without reasonable doubt that drinking lots of fizzy drinks causes Type 2 diabetes because there are many confounding factors to be considered. Lifestyle issues always complicate these types of statistical analyses in nutrition. It may be that consuming soft drinks is associated with a very sedentary lifestyle or one rich in eating lots of saturated fat or a low intake of fruit and vegetables. There may be differences in body weight, exercise levels, stress and other food types eaten are all confounding factors that muddy the waters in nutritional studies. The point here is whether the Harvard team underestimated any of these confounding factors.

Writing headline truths from such studies is thus fraught with danger, the conclusions of which should be taken with a pinch of salt. To drive this point home just consider one simple aspect of the publication under scrutiny. This article resulted from analyses pooled from the available medical literature. But, what if many other studies showing the opposite effect are left unpublished after completion, what if some studies are forgotten about and left on the shelf so to speak. A pooled analysis of only known studies will result in a bias in our current knowledge. In the world of medical publishing this is known as publication bias and it is an important to be aware of this possibility before drawing firm conclusions.

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