The study was conducted by researchers from Imperial College London, UK, who used data from the InterAct consortium and was published in Diabetologia.
The majority of past studies on this subject have taken place in North America. A previous U.S. study demonstrated a link between soft drink consumption to obesity and diabetes.
Therefore, the researchers wanted to determine whether an association between drinking sweet beverages and type 2 diabetes existed in Europe.
Data on eight European cohorts participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study were analyzed. This included the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden and the Netherlands - involving about 350,000 volunteers.
The researchers looked at consumption of juices and nectars, artificially sweetened soft drinks, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
As part of the InterAct project, the experts conducted a trial that consisted of 12,403 type 2 diabetes cases and a random sub-cohort of 16,154 identified within EPIC.
After adjusting the results for confounding factors, the scientists discovered that consumption of one 12oz (336ml) serving size of sugar-sweetened soft drink each day raised the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes by 22%.
When the investigators accounted for body-mass index (BMI) and total energy intake - both factors thought to mediate the link between drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks and diabetes risk - the elevated risk dropped slightly to 18%.
This may suggest that the impact of sugar-sweetened soft drinks on diabetes goes further than its influence on body weight, the authors pointed out.
A statistically significant increase in type 2 diabetes incidence associated with artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was also observed. However, this notable link no longer existed after accounting for the BMI of the subjects.
The scientists explained:
"This probably indicates that the association was not causal but driven by the weight of participants (i.e. participants with a higher body weight tend to report higher consumption of artificially sweetened drinks, and are also more likely to develop diabetes)."
There was no significant link identified between pure fruit juice and nectar consumption and diabetes incidence. However, the authors were not able to separately analyze the influence of 100% pure juices from those with added sugars with the data they had available.
The raised probability of diabetes among Europeans who drink sugar-sweetened soft drinks is comparable to past reports conducted in North America which showed a 25% elevated risk of type 2 diabetes linked to 12 oz daily increment of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.
Dr Dora Romaguera, a researcher of the study, concluded: "Given the increase in sweet beverage consumption in Europe, clear messages on the unhealthy effect of these drinks should be given to the population."