A third of Britains children, and two-thirds of adults, are now overweight or obese  but halving childrens intake of sugar-sweetened drinks could arrest or even reverse current trends.

London - Diet fizzy drinks can raise the risk of diabetes by 60 percent, startling new research has revealed.

A study of more than 66 000 women found those who drank artificially sweetened drinks were more likely to develop the disease than those who indulged in regular, “full fat” versions. The findings fly in the face of conventional thinking that regular versions of fizzy drinks are always worse for our health.

The effect is compounded by the fact that diet drinkers also consume more – on average 2.8 glasses a week compared to 1.6 for regular drinkers. Regular, full-fat versions of fizzy drinks have previously been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.

But less is known about their artificially sweetened counterparts – often promoted as a healthier substitute. In the study, more than 66 000 middle-aged French women were quizzed about their dietary habits. Their health was then monitored over 14 years.

The researchers examined the rates of diabetes among women who drank either regular or diet fizzy drinks and those who drank only unsweetened fruit juice.

Women who drank fizzy drinks had a higher risk of diabetes than those who only consumed juice. Those who drank up to 359ml of any type of fizzy a week – just more than a regular-sized can – were a third more likely to develop the disease. The risk was more than double in those who drank 600ml a week – just bigger than a regular bottle.

Drinkers of diet drinks had an even higher risk of diabetes compared to those who drank regular ones. Those who drank up to 500ml a week had a 15 percent increased risk. Once more than 1.5 litres a week was consumed, this became a 60 percent increased risk.

“Contrary to conventional thinking, the risk of diabetes is higher with ‘light’ beverages compared with ‘regular’ sweetened drinks,” the researchers said.

The paper noted previous research which showed that aspartame – the most widely used artificial sweetener – has a similar effect on blood glucose and insulin levels as the sucrose used in regular sweeteners.

World Health Organisation statistics show that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes.

Over time the disease can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. – Daily Mail