SUGARY drinks are worse for you than sugary foods, research released today shows.

Sweetened drinks pose a greater risk of type 2 diabetes than most other foods containing fructose, a naturally occurring sugar, according to Canadian research published in The BMJ today.

Lead researcher Dr John Sievenpiper said the findings showed that fruit and other foods containing fructose seem to have no harmful effect on blood glucose levels, while sweetened drinks may have harmful effects.

Fructose occurs naturally in a range of foods, including whole fruits and vegetables, natural fruit juices and honey.

It is also added to foods, such as soft drinks, breakfast cereals, baked goods, sweets, and desserts.

"These findings might help guide recommendations on important food sources of fructose in the prevention and management of diabetes," Dr Sievenpiper said.

The role of sugars in the development of diabetes and heart disease attracts widespread debate and increasing evidence suggests that fructose could be particularly harmful to health.

The results show that most foods containing fructose sugars do not have a harmful effect on blood glucose levels when these foods do not provide excess calories.

Coolum Mum Yolanda Criaco with son Leo, 2, who she doesn't let have any sweet drinks. Picture: Lachie Millard
Coolum Mum Yolanda Criaco with son Leo, 2, who she doesn't let have any sweet drinks. Picture: Lachie Millard

Brisbane accredited practising dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia Kate Di Prima said the research confirmed it was time to stop challenging fruits.

"Some people put all sugar in the one category but fruit, for example, comes with fibre and is a very filling, nutritious snack for kids," she said.

"However, sugar in a sweetened drink is just empty calories. There is nothing nourishing in there."

Ms Di Prima said she believed public messaging around the harmful effects of too much sugar was good and that even with the introduction of something like a sugar tax, some people would continue to over-indulge.

She suggested those looking for something other than plain water consider trying soda water or using flavoured tea bags as an infusion.

Coolum Beach mum Yolanda Criaco said her little boy, Leo, 2, had never had a sugary drink in his life.

"If I were to give him a sugary meal or drink not only would it have negative health impacts, it would also take away that opportunity for nutrition," she said.

"Sometimes it can be challenging with all of the temptations within

their eyelevel, but I know my actions will impact Leo not only now, but his eating habits and for the rest of his life.

"By never introducing this food to him, he doesn't ask for it often, I've just had to get creative with substituting for clean treats.."

The researchers said more high quality studies on the issue were needed.