For their study, the group analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a large population study that tracked nearly 116,500 female nurses from 1991 to 2015. Every four years, participants answered surveys that included questions about diet, including the types and estimated amounts of beverages they drank. Of the total participants, more than 41,000 also were asked to recall their beverage habits during adolescence.
The researchers identified 109 diagnoses of early-onset colorectal cancer among the nearly 116,500 participants.
Although sugar-sweetened drinks were linked to an increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer, others, including milk and coffee, were associated with a decreased risk. The researchers said this observational study can’t demonstrate that drinking sugary beverages causes this type of cancer or that drinking milk or coffee is protective, but they suggest replacing sweetened beverages with unsweetened drinks is a better choice for long-term health.
“Given this data, we recommend that people avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and instead choose drinks like milk and coffee without sweeteners,” Cao said. The study was published online Thursday in the journal Gut.
For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.