People who increase their daily intake of sugary beverages may confront a 16% higher risk of type 2 diabetes, according to researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A four-ounce increase in daily sugary beverage consumption over four years was enough to raise the odds. Whether the beverages were sweetened with added sugar or were naturally sweetened, such as 100% fruit juice, the effect was the same.

In contrast, substituting sugary beverages with tea, coffee or water can change the odds for the better, the researchers found. Replacing one daily sugary beverage with one of these drinks lowered risk by 2% to 10%, wrote lead author Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, Ph.D. 

The investigators also looked at the effect of replacing sugary beverages with artificially sweetened drinks. This did not lower risk, the study found. But the researchers said to interpret that result with caution, as people already prone to type 2 diabetes may be more likely to begin replacing sugar with diet drinks.

“The study provides further evidence demonstrating the health benefits associated with decreasing sugary beverage consumption and replacing these drinks with healthier alternatives like water, coffee, or tea,” concluded Drouin-Chartier.

The article was published online in the journal Diabetes Care.