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Diet drinks not at fault for diabetes

Diet drinks and other artificially-sweetened drinks previously implicated in the chance of developing diabetes are not guilty, according to a study by researchers at Harvard University.

In a large group of men who were followed for 20 years, drinking regular soft drinks and other sugary drinks often meant that a person was more likely to get diabetes, but that was not true of artificially-sweetened soft drinks, or coffee or tea.

Replacing sugary drinks with diet versions in fact seems to be a safe and healthy alternative, the report, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, said.

"There are multiple alternatives to regular soda," said Frank Hu, one of the study's authors.

"Diet soda is perhaps not the best alternative, but moderate consumption is not going to have any appreciable harmful effects."

Prior studies had suggested that people who drink diet soft drinks regularly might be more likely to get diabetes than those who stay away from artificially-sweetened drinks, but the recent study indicates that the link is a result of other factors common to both diet soft drink drinkers and people with diabetes, including being overweight.

Hu and his colleagues analysed data from more than 40,000 men who were followed between 1986 and 2006, during which time they regularly filled out questionnaires on their medical status and dietary habits, including how many servings of regular and diet sodas, and other drinks, consumed every week.

About 7pc of the men reported that they were diagnosed with diabetes at some point in the study.

Men who drank the most sugar-sweetened beverages, about one serving a day on average, were 16pc more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than men who never drank those beverages.

Drinking coffee on a daily basis, both regular and decaffeinated, was linked to a lower risk of diabetes.