by Dr. Alan Inglis

What marketing genius ever tagged canned beverages as "soft drinks?" Somebody softheaded. Let's face facts. These are hard drinks. They're hard on your gut. They're hard on your body. And they're real tough on your blood sugar levels, leading you down the hard road to type 2 diabetes.

A long-term study sponsored by the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University showed that women who drank more sugar-sweetened drinks were at greater risk of developing diabetes.

Women who drank two or more soft drinks per day had a 24 percent increase in diabetes risk compared with women who drank less than one soft drink per month, based on questionnaires the subjects filled out and 10 years of follow-up. The increase was even greater — 31 percent — for those who had two or more sweetened fruit drinks a day.

This isn't surprising. The average American consumes 100 grams of fructose a day, most of this from high-fructose corn syrup that's been added to processed foods and beverages, like soft drinks. There are only 5 grams of fructose in an apple. Plus, the fructose in an apple comes to you in a whole food package, accompanied by the numerous synergistic co-nutrients that support and balance its proper assimilation and use by your body.

Some people think they're gaining by drinking something with a juicy piece of healthy fruit on the label. Not necessarily so. Packaged fruit drinks can have as many calories as those hard soft drinks. And they carry the same link to type 2 diabetes.

Better to go with the real thing. Fruit fresh off the vine, bush or tree. That was the prescription of another new study, from England. It showed people with higher levels of vitamin C in the blood — which is a sign they eat more vegetables and fruit — showed a decreased risk of developing diabetes over the 12 years of follow-up in this study.

There are a couple of possibilities here. The fruit-and-vegetable effect might be a result of the overall diet keeping pounds off for those people, thereby decreasing their risk of diabetes. It also helps that eating fruits and vegetables leads to a greater intake of antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

To cut down on your soft drink consumption, try this: mix real fruit juice half-and-half with seltzer water; get used to that and that other junk will taste too sweet — you might lose your appetite for it.