MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
As the number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes has soared, so too has the idea that being overweight or obese is the path to developing the disease. But normal weight people may be at risk too. A new study in the British Medical Journal shows one habit in particular can increase the risk. Here's NPR's Allison Aubrey.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Lots of factors contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes - your genes, your weight, whether you smoke or exercise and, it turns out, how often you choose sugary drinks. At the Union Station food court in Washington, D.C., Betty Hoff (ph) and her daughter Ashley (ph) are filling up their large soda cups.
AUBREY: What are you drinking there today?
BETTY HOFF: Coke.
AUBREY: Is this a daily habit? Is this something you do once a day?
B. HOFF: Yes. I drink it more than once a day, and it quenches my thirst.
AUBREY: But it may also drive up her risk of Type 2 diabetes. A new study from researchers at the University of Cambridge estimates that drinking one sugary drink every day increases the risk of getting the disease by about 18 percent over a decade compared to people who don't drink sugary drinks. Two drinks per day bumps the risk up even higher.
DAVID LUDWIG: This study provides the most precise estimates of the actual risks involved.
AUBREY: That's David Ludwig, an obesity expert at Boston Children's Hospital. He was not involved in the new study, but he says what's interesting about the findings is that though the diabetes risk is highest for overweight people, the study shows that even normal weight and lean people who have a sugary drink habit are vulnerable too.
LUDWIG: So this suggests that at any given weight, drinking sugary beverages is going to kick up the risk of getting diabetes.
AUBREY: The more you drink, the higher the risk, so consider teenager Ashley Hoff's daily soda habit.
ASHLEY HOFF: I drink about three or four - one with dinner, one with lunch.
AUBREY: She's not obese, but her habit is risky. The researchers estimate that if Americans with a habit like Ashley's gave up sugary drinks, 2 million cases of diabetes could be prevented over the next ten years.
LUDWIG: So potentially millions of cases of diabetes as a result of this one behavior.
AUBREY: May be something to ponder the next time you feel thirsty. Allison Aubrey, NPR news.