Media Advisory: Link Between Soft Drinks and Diabetes Unproven and Exaggerated

Published August 25, 2004

Chicago, August 25, 2004: Articles today in several newspapers report the results of a study claiming a link in younger- and middle-aged women between soft drink consumption and type-2 diabetes.

Following are reactions from Sean Parnell, vice president – external affairs of The Heartland Institute, a 20-year-old nonprofit research organization based in Chicago. Heartland is publisher of Health Care News, a monthly newspaper that covers health policy matters.

Parnell can be reached at 312/377-4000, or contacted by email at [email protected].

“Stories reporting a link between soft drink consumption and type-2 diabetes in women are misleading at best. The real story, and one that should surprise no one, is that unhealthy lifestyles characterized by lack of physical activity and overeating are linked to type-2 diabetes.

“The research clearly shows the women most at risk for type-2 diabetes were those who had low cereal fiber and protein consumption, reported low levels of physical activity, were overweight, and smoked.

“Reporters should ask themselves why the researchers who conducted this study focused on soft-drink consumption to the exclusion of known risk factors such as obesity and low levels of physical activity. Perhaps the answer lies with the activism against consumer freedom taken by some of the researchers. Researcher Walter Willett, for example, has said, ‘Anyone who cares about their health or the health of their families would not consume these beverages.’

“This study relies on the ‘body mass index’ (BMI) to determine whether a person is overweight or obese. This is the same BMI that categorizes Arnold Schwarzenegger as ‘obese’ and Brad Pitt and Michael Jordan as ‘overweight.’ Reliance on BMI undermines the credibility of this study.

“This obviously flawed study is just another attack on ‘politically incorrect’ foods and beverages by self-appointed activists who seek higher taxes and more regulation and are backing absurd lawsuits against fast food restaurants.

“People should take this study, and the resulting media hype surrounding it, with a grain of salt. Or, if they prefer, a nice cold soft drink.”