Assuming you don't live in a van down by the river or spend your days listening to one of the "no news, just music" channels on Sirius Satellite (NASDAQ:SIRI) or XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR), by now you've probably heard of the Harvard School of Public Health study linking sugar- and corn syrup-sweetened soft drinks to type 2 diabetes (a form of the disease that strikes formerly nondiabetic adults).

For those who've still not heard, here's a brief rundown. Harvard monitored 52,000 nurses' consumption of soft drinks and sugar-added fruit cocktails over the course of eight years. At the conclusion of the study, the results were at once glaringly obvious and frighteningly specific: Drinking as little as a single glass of regular soda a day creates "positive associations" with "greater weight gain and risk of type 2 diabetes." That's in comparison to the results recorded for persons who drink fewer than one nondiet soda a month.

Needless to say, a study stating as "fact" what most people always understood to be true from experience -- that consuming sugar makes you fat -- already has soft-drink makers such as Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Pepsi (NYSE:PEP) shifting their spin control into high gear. The American Beverage Association (ABA), a soft-drink lobbyist, immediately pointed out that the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association haven't linked soft-drink consumption with diabetes. (Which is a bit of a red herring -- the ABA says that "obesity" is the real cause of diabetes, but with each can of soda containing the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar, drinking enough of the stuff is a darn good way to become obese.) The ABA also points out that persons who drink a lot of soda often have other unhealthy habits. They smokeAltria's (NYSE:MO) cigarettes, for example. Or their primary food source is McDonald's (NYSE:MCD).

Still, long before the Harvard study came out, there have been voices decrying the weighty effects of corn syrup on our national scales. Bill Maher, host of Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) popular HBO talk show Real Time, devoted a good portion of his second show of this season to railing against the evils of corn syrup. At the time, it was clear that Maher's guests simply didn't "get" the connection between corn syrup and bad health, giving the soft-drink industry a temporary reprieve.

But while Americans might be able to tune out a talk show host on a late-night premium cable channel, it is going to be harder to ignore Harvard and 52,000 nurses.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any company mentioned in this article.