Low-calorie soft drinks may reduce the risk of colon cancer recurrence

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Consuming excess calories increases the risk of developing many diseases, including colon cancer recurrence. Switching to low-calorie soft drinks from sugary soft drinks may greatly reduce the risk of colon cancer recurrence.

An energy imbalance occurs when a person consumes more calories than they burn through daily energy expenditure. An increased energy balance contributes to the development of many diseases including obesity, diabetes, and cancer. An energy imbalance in patients treated for colon cancer has been previously associated with an increased risk of colon cancer recurrence and death from the disease. An increased energy balance can be reduced by simply reducing calorie intake.

Use of artificial sweeteners in low-calorie soft drinks are controversial

Artificially sweetened beverages are a low-calorie substitute for sugary, high-calorie soft drinks. Substituting regular soft drinks for low-calorie soda will reduce the energy balance and could prevent the occurrence of many diseases. Low-calorie soft drinks, however, are the subject of controversy, as the effects of artificial sweeteners on human health have not been completely explored.

In a study conducted at Yale University in the United States, researchers showed that low-calorie soft drinks were not only safe for patient consumption but also reduced colon cancer recurrence in patients. They published their results in PLOS ONE.

Patients with stage 3 colon reported their diet during and after chemotherapy, and researchers looked for a link between intake of low-calorie soft drinks and cancer recurrence and death. Researchers found that patients who had at least one low-calorie soft drink had a lower risk of cancer recurrence than patients who did not drink low-calorie soft drinks.

Improvements in recurrence-free and overall survival

Consuming low-calorie soft drinks was also associated with improvement in recurrence-free survival and overall survival. Computer generated substitution models said that replacing one regular soft drink with a low-calorie soft drink per day reduced the risk of cancer recurrence and death by 23%.

Overall, the study showed that consuming artificially sweetened low-calorie soft drinks may reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and death in colon cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. This association was likely not because low-calorie soft drinks have some anti-cancer compound, but because substituting a beverage full of sugar to a beverage void of sugar reduces the energy balance, which is known to be associated with cancer recurrence.

Written by Mallory Wiggans

Reference: Guercio BJ, Zhang S, Niedzwiecki D, Li Y, Babic A, Morales-Oyarvide V, et al. (2018) Associations of artificially sweetened beverage intake with disease recurrence and mortality in stage III colon cancer: Results from CALGB 89803 (Alliance). PLoS ONE 13(7): e0199244.

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