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New research shows that drinking even a small amount of soft drink a day can lead to disease

Jackie Sinnerton, July 16, 2019 7:00PM The Courier-Mail

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Ted and Jimmy are only allowed sugary drinks occasionally. Picture: Jay Town media_cameraTed and Jimmy are only allowed sugary drinks occasionally. Picture: Jay Town


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Drinking just a third of a can of soft drink a day increases the risk of developing cancer* by up to 22 per cent, according to new research.

Drinking fruit juice was also shown to increase the risk of developing cancer.

Public health expert Professor Lennert Veerman from Griffith University, Qld, said the research, published in the British Medical Journal is the “first to convincingly* link these drinks directly to cancer risk”.

In the study, French researchers examined 3300 food and drinks over a maximum of nine years in 101,257 healthy French adults

They found that a 100ml increased intake of sugary drinks was associated with an 18 per cent increased risk of overall cancer and a 22 per cent increase in the risk of breast cancer.

The team of French researchers believe that sugar in the drinks causes our bodies to store more fat around organs such as the liver* and pancreas*, and this has been linked to a higher risk of cancer.

Obesity children media_cameraSugar in drinks causes our bodies to store more fat around organs such as the liver and pancreas. Although the study involved adults, too many sugary drinks are unhealthy at any age. Picture: istock

“Much of the cancer risk is likely to arise* via obesity*. This points once again to the need to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks for health,” Prof Veerman said.

“Sugar should be treated much like alcohol and tobacco*. While an information campaign would be helpful, it is unlikely to have a significant* impact* on its own.

“Taxation* and advertising restrictions are probably also needed.

“Modelling* studies have shown that both can lead to large improvements in health.

“They are likely to be good for the economy too — a healthy population is a more productive* population.”

A kiosk worker (below) looks at cigarette packets which are kept covered up by law in central Sydney on August 15, 2012. Global tobacco firms lost a "watershed" court challenge to Australia's plain packaging laws for cigarettes on August 15 in a closely-watched case health advocates said will have a worldwide impact. The High Court of Australia ruled the measures, forcing cigarettes and tobacco products to be sold in drab, uniform packaging with graphic health warnings from December 1 this year, did not breach the country's constitution.  AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD media_cameraA man opens the cover on a kiosk selling cigarettes. In Australia, there are laws restricting cigarette advertising. Packets must carry health warnings and places that sell cigarettes cannot display advertising. Picture: AFP

The study found that average daily consumption* of sugary drinks was greater in men than in women.

Men drank 90.3ml and women 74.6ml. During follow-up, 2193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed* and confirmed.

Because this is what is called an observational study (which means the researchers just observed or watched what people did and what happened to them, rather than trying to change anything) the researchers can’t say what caused the cancers, just that they occurred at a higher rate in people who drank sugary drinks.

However, the study involved a large number of people and the researchers got very similar results when they did later testing, which means that the results are likely to be reliable.

“The authors conclude that the sugary drinks widely consumed as part of our so-called ‘western’ diet represent an opportunity for cancer prevention,” Professor Margaret Morris from the School of Medical Sciences and Head of the Environmental Determinants of Obesity Group at the University of New South Wales said.

The researchers did not find cancer links to drinking artificially sweetened diet drinks.


  • cancer: a group of diseases in which cells in the body divide abnormally, which can cause damage to the body
  • convincingly: in a way so people believe something is true
  • liver: the body’s biggest internal organ; helps clean the blood
  • pancreas: organ that makes natural chemicals that help digest food
  • arise: come from or out of
  • obesity: a word used to describe someone who is very overweight with too much body fat to be healthy
  • tobacco: the leaf used to make cigarettes
  • significant: important or noticeable
  • impact: effect or influence
  • taxation: system of collecting money to pay for a service
  • modelling: predict what will happen by looking at what is known now
  • productive: able to produce or make things or be useful
  • consumption: eating, drinking or using something up
  • diagnosed: identify a problem by looking at symptoms


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  1. How long did the study go for?
  2. How many people were involved in the study?
  3. Did men or woman drink more sugary drinks, on average?
  4. Explain what an observational study is.
  5. Was there a link found between cancer and artificial sweeteners?


1. Sugar Tax
The three main ways to try and convince people to cut out sugary drinks from their diet include an information campaign, taxation and advertising restrictions.

Draw a table on your page with three columns. List the three strategies in the first column and. Label the second column pros (positives) and the third column cons (negatives). Complete the table for all three of these strategies.

The strategies are:

INFORMATION CAMPAIGN: informing people of the increased cancer risk, risk of obesity and other negative effects of drinking these sugary drinks.

TAXATION: putting a tax on sugary drinks so they cost more to buy

ADVERTISING RESTRICTIONS: government to restrict the amount and times that companies can advertise these sugary drink products so they are not so widely seen

Give your overall recommendation about which strategy you think would work best.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Work with a partner and write an advertising jingle suited to kids about why these sugary drinks are bad for you and best to be avoided. Include some facts in your jingle but make it catchy and fun.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Music, Critical and Creative Thinking


Write an exposition convincing other children to swap soft drink and fruit drink for a healthier option.
Use Vinny Vocabulary’s power of persuasion by adding in emotive language.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Does this story make you less likely to drink sugary drinks? Why or why not?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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