Soft drinks can cause bowel cancer

Sugary Drinks & Bowel Cancer

Cancer can strike anyone, but sometimes certain lifestyle decisions could increase the risk. Recent research published in Gut journal suggests that sugar-sweetened drinks could be doubling the risk of bowel cancer.

Considered the second biggest cancer killer, bowel cancer is caused by cells changing and growing in the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.  As cancer cells divide and multiply in the body very quickly, the disease can be quite hard to detect often lowering survival rates.

However, keeping an eye on your lifestyle decisions can make a difference. Certain food and drinks can influence your risk of developing cancer in the first place.

Gut research and its findings

The study from Gut monitored 95,464 participants over 24 years, taking into account what they ate and drank, as well as family history of bowel cancer and lifestyle.

Over the years, it was found that 109 women developed bowel cancer before the age of 50, with higher intake of sugar-sweetened drinks in adulthood being connected to higher risk of the disease.

Those who drank two or more servings of the drink every day were thought to be twice as likely to develop bowel cancer, compared to women who drank less than one serving in a week.

Each daily serving of the drink was linked with a 16% higher risk, which rose to 32% per daily serving during the teenage years. Bowel cancer has been rising rapidly among young adults. Since the 1990s, the rate of this disease (which includes cancers of the colon and rectum) has more than doubled among adults younger than 50, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). You can read more about the study here.

Sugary Drinks linked to Bowel Cancer

The findings from this study join a whole mosaic of negative outcomes for sugar-sweetened beverages. We already know that when consumed in excess, added sugar can adversely affect your health. However, some sources of sugar are worse than others – and sugary drinks are by far the worst.  This primarily applies to sugary carbonated drinks, but also to fruit juices, highly sweetened coffees, and other sources of liquid sugar. Not surprisingly, studies show that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages consistently gain more weight than people who don’t.

The risks of drinking sugary drinks

Sugary drinks are the easiest and most common way to consume excessive amounts of fructose. When you consume too much fructose, your liver becomes overloaded and turns the fructose into fat. Over time, this can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). You can read more about NAFLD here.

Fructose is linked to a significant increase in the dangerous fat around your belly and organs. This is known as visceral fat or belly fat. Excessive belly fat is tied to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If this isn’t enough cause for alarm, it’s also worth noting that sugary drinks contain virtually no essential nutrients – no vitamins, no minerals, and no fibre.  They add nothing to your diet except excessive amounts of added sugar and unnecessary calories.

Lifestyle choices increase the risk of developing bowel cancer

bowel cancer affecting more and more younger people

The bottom line – this study further shines a light on the complicated relationship between our diet, lifestyle, and risk of developing diseases such as bowel cancer. Although bowel cancer is much more common in the over 50s, each year more than 2,500 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. The disease is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, every 15 minutes someone is diagnosed.  While the role that sugary drinks play in the cause of bowel cancer isn’t definitive, we know that around half of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle.

Making simple changes to your diet like limiting (better still, eliminating) sugary drinks, eating plenty of wholegrains and fibre, avoiding processed meat and limiting red meat, being of a healthy body weight, having regular physical activity, stopping smoking, and cutting down on alcohol can help stack the odds against developing bowel cancer.

If you are unable to completely give up your sugary drink fix, I would strongly recommend supplementing with a daily Live Bacteria probiotic capsule to mitigate the effects of the sugar. In case you don’t eat oily fish at least twice weekly, you should consider taking one of our high-strength Omega 3 fish oil capsules. 

If you are over 60, I also strongly urge you to carry out your FIT test that you should start to receive every two years after turning 60, as long as you are registered with a GP. This test can pick up microscopic blood in your stool that may be a pre-cursor to bowel cancer.  It’s often just a polyp causing the bleeding, but polyps can turn cancerous if not caught in time by testing.  My husband had a positive FIT test during lockdown, and needed a colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy to remove five polyps, one of which was causing the bleeding.  You can read more about it in my blog post here: