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Diet soft drink increases diabetic eye disease risk

07/02/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
A joint Australian-Singaporean study has found regular diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased odds of proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).

The results were based on a survey of 609 adult diabetic patients at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, which in part assessed the relationship between regular and diet soft drink consumption and DR and diabetic macular oedema (DMO).

According to the study, published recently in Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology, patients who consumed more than four cans of diet soft drink a week were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to have PDR compared with those who didn’t consume.

The paper also found no association between regular soft drink consumption and DR or DMO. Lead investigator and Singapore Eye Research Institute director Professor Ecosse Lamoureux told Insight he was surprised at the results, but added more work was needed, especially with regard to the relationship between sugary soft drinks and diabetic eye disease.

“Our findings indicate that a dietary pattern whereby low caloric soda is consumed on most days of the week may contribute to the development of microvascular complications, such as DR, in people with diabetes. More importantly, our results may inform future dietary management plans for individuals with existing DR,” Lamoureux said.

“However, with so few individuals with diabetes in our sample who reported consuming regular soft drinks, the lack of association could be due to inadequate statistical power. This caveat has been noted in our manuscript and caution is needed when interpreting our results on the non-association between regular soft drinks and the severity spectrum of DR.”

Lamoureux said prospective studies with larger samples would be needed to confirm the association between sugary drinks and diabetic eye disease, but added his team would likely be taking a different approach on follow up projects.

“Given the cross-sectional nature of our study we are unable to determine causality,” he explained.

“Therefore, we are planning to undertake longitudinal studies using prospectively collected dietary data to determine whether diet soft drinks are indeed unhealthy substitutes for regular soft drinks in patients with diabetes and to inform clinical management guidelines for DR.”

More reading: The full study.

Image courtesy: Flickr | Richard Masoner

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