Could Your Diet Soda Habit Increase Your Risk For Dementia Or Stroke
Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty
Theres been controversy around artificial sweeteners for years. Do they cause cancer? Can they really help you lose weight?
Science has pretty much debunked the claims that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, while the picture remains a little more hazy regarding sugar substitutes and weight loss, as we previously reported.
But now theres a new concern to add to the mix: Can diet sodaswhich use artificial sweetenerscontribute to dementia and stroke risk? A new study just published in the journal Stroke suggests that there may be a link between the two.
In the study, researchers tracked the stroke risk for nearly 3,000 patients and the dementia risk for about 1,500 more. They discovered that those who drank artificially sweetened beverages were at greater risk of experiencing a stroke or getting diagnosed with Alzheimers disease over a 10-year follow up.
Related: These 5 Guys Were Diagnosed With Alzheimers Disease Before Age 60Disease Before Age 60
In fact, those who drank one or more artificially-sweetened beverages a day were nearly three times as likely to have an ischemic strokethe most common kind of stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the brainthan those who didnt drink any. They were also nearly three times as likely to receive an Alzheimers diagnosis, too.
Strenthen from the inside out with this 15-minute mind-body circuit:
Diet Sodas Raise Risk Of Dementia And Stroke Study Finds
While the findings do not prove that diet drinks damage brains, they support other studies that show people who drink them frequently tend to have poorer health.
The researchers, led by Matthew Pase of the Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues, studied more than 4,000 people for their report, published in the journal Stroke.
We found that those people who were consuming diet soda on a daily basis were three times as likely to develop both stroke and dementia within the next 10 years as compared to those who did not consume diet soda, Pase told NBC News.
Both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks may be hard on the brain.”
Our study provides further evidence to link consumption of artificially sweetened beverages with the risk of stroke, the team wrote.
To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and an increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimers disease.
The team did not ask people which artificial sweetener they used. Some of those in the diet drinks were likely saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, or sucralose, the researchers said.
And other experts pointed out that sugary drinks are a major cause of obesity, diabetes, stroke and other ills.
And Americans have been encouraged to switch to diet drinks.
What Artificial Sweeteners Were The Worst
While there are many artificial sweeteners out there this study did not say one was better or worse than another. It doesn’t appear that the questionnaires the people filled out were designed to tease out what kind of artificial sweeteners people were using in their diet sodas. Likewise the study did not call out any one brand of diet soda .
Also Check: Does Alzheimer Disease Run In The Family
Drinking At Least One Diet Soda A Day Can Triple Your Stroke Risk Research Shows
Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine looked at the long-term health impact of drinking artificially sweetened beverages, publishing their results in 2017 in the journal Stroke. The researchers analyzed nearly 3,000 participants over the age of 45 for strokes over the course of 10 years, gauging their beverage intake through a food-frequency questionnaire. According to their findings, the participants who drank at least one diet soda a day were nearly twice as likely to have a stroke than those who didn’t drink diet soda, but they were three times as likely to develop an ischemic stroke, in particular.
“Our study provides further evidence to link consumption of artificially sweetened beverages with the risk of stroke, particularly ischemic stroke,” the researchers said.
Weight And Race Increased Risk
More than 80,000 postmenopausal US women participating in the Womens Health Initiative, a long-term national study, were asked how often they drank one 12-fluid-ounce serving of diet beverage over the previous three months. Their health outcomes were tracked for an average of 11.9 years, Mossavar-Rahmani said.
Previous studies have focused on the bigger picture of cardiovascular disease, she said. Our study focused on the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke and its subtypes, one of which was small-vessel blockage. The other interesting thing about our study is that we looked at who is more vulnerable.
After controlling for lifestyle factors, the study found that women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened beverages each day were 31% more likely to have a clot-based stroke, 29% more likely to have heart disease and 16% more likely to die from any causethan women who drank diet beverages less than once a week or not at all.
The analysis then looked at women with no history of heart disease and diabetes, which are key risk factors for stroke. The risks rose dramatically if those women were obese or African-American.
There was no such strokelinkage to women who were of normal weight or overweight. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index of 25 to 30, while obesity is over 30.
You May Like: How Does Alzheimer’s Affect Family And Friends
First Things First: Correlation Not Causation
First, the study under review is an observational study, meaning that there is no experiment being done ; rather it involves observation of lifestyles and health outcomes.
Therefore, you can only find correlations, and cannot establish a cause and effect relationship. Theres a fairly high likelihood of unaccounted factors affecting the study outcomes, and correlations can sometimes be strong but misleading. For example, check out the graph below,which shows a strong correlation between the number of movies Nicholas Cage has appeared in and the number of people who drowned in a pool for a given year. The data looks very suspicious for Mr. Cage, but at the end of the day its very unlikely that these movies have caused people to drown, no matter how bad they are.
But this does not mean that we should automatically discount a study simply because its an observational one. There are a lot of things you cant conduct an experimental study on because it would be impractical or unethical, such as randomizing people to a heavy-cigarette-use group to see how many get lung cancer. Observational studies are often used to generate hypotheses which can be tested in further human trials or animal studies.
Observational studies cannot establish a cause and effect relationship. Memorize that and never forget it. However, observational studies are still an important piece of the puzzle and theyre worth examining in detail.
Research Alert: Diet Soda Linked To Increased Risk Of Dementia
If it says diet it must be good for you, right? At least better than the non-diet version? When it comes to swapping out sugary soft drinks with diet soda, most people assume they are doing their health a favor. This mentality and safety message has been reinforced through marketing campaigns and has even been endorsed by members of the medical and nutrition communities. However, new research cast serious doubts on the safety of some of the artificial sweeteners that are used to replace sugar in diet soft drinks.
Read Also: What Type Of Genetic Disorder Is Alzheimer’s
Artificial Sweeteners: Other Shortcomings
Another conundrum: researchers dont have any plausible explanation for why artificial sweeteners might increase stroke risk. Still, there may be other reasons to ditch them.
If you use artificial sweeteners to control your weight, you should know that the support for that strategy is pretty shaky. Some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners make people crave sugary, high-calorie foods, thereby negating the sweeteners potential to cut your overall calorie intake. And some experts believe that people who use these high-intensity sweeteners may come to find naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and less-sweet foods, such as vegetables, downright unpalatable. If so, those people might be missing out on the many heart-protecting nutrients found in fresh, natural foods.
But Dr. Rexrode isnt a stickler when it comes to diet soda. I encourage my patients to eliminate regular soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks to avoid empty calories, she says. But if someone says they cant do without a Coke in the morning to wake up, Ill encourage them to switch to coffee or diet Coke. Water is an even better choice, however. There are a lot of ways to make it more appealing, both visually and taste-wise. she adds. Try flavoring flat or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or add frozen fruit, cucumber, or crushed mint.
Soft Drinks Linked To Poor Memory Diet Soda May Up Risk Of Stroke
IANS | January 05, 2018 10:53 AM | Health
New York: If you thought switching to diet soda can help you avoid the ill effects associated with sugary soft drinks, think again! Researchers have found that while drinking sugary beverages frequently may lead to poorer memory, daily intake of diet soda may increase the risk of stroke and dementia.
Both sugary and diet drinks correlated with accelerated brain ageing, according to the findings published in two separate studies.
People who drink sugary beverages frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus an area of the brain important for learning and memory, said the study published in the journal Alzheimers & Dementia.
A follow-up study, published in the journal Stroke, found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.
Scientists have put forth various hypotheses about how artificial sweeteners may cause harm, from transforming gut bacteria to altering the brains perception of sweet, but we need more work to figure out the underlying mechanisms, said Boston Universitys Matthew Pase, who is lead author on the two studies.
For the studies, researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study , a study that aims to identify common factors or characteristics that contribute to cardiovascular disease .
Also Check: Is Alzheimer’s Acute Or Chronic
Some Experts Question Study Methodology
Some experts voiced concern about how some media outlets covered the study, cautioning that the study findings did not find a direct cause and effect relationship between artificially sweetened beverages and incidences stroke and dementia. According to Fortune, certain news outlets ran coverage of the study with potentially alarming headlines, such as the title Fox News used, “Daily dose of diet soda tied to triple risk of deadly stroke.”
Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, said in an AHA release, “We need to be cautious in the interpretation of these results. It doesn’t prove cause and effect.”
In a blog post, Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics and associate dean for research mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine, argued the study had several important weaknesses, such as not accounting for:
- Race or ethnicity;
- Employment status; and
- Family history of disease.
He also said because of how the study tracked disease incidence, some of the findings might be the result of chance. He concluded there is no “evidence that changing your behavior with respect to drinking diet soda will change any of these outcomes at all.”
Soda May Increase Your Risk Of Stroke
Approximately 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, and the condition accounts for 1 in 6 deaths related to cardiovascular disease in the U.S. Unfortunately, drinking either diet or traditionally-sweetened soda on a regular basis can increase your risk of this often-fatal condition.
According to the aforementioned study published in Stroke, individuals who regularly drank diet soda had nearly triple the risk of stroke compared to study participants who drank none.
Additionally, a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that consumption of one or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day may increase a person’s risk of stroke by as much as 21%.
If you want to lower your stroke risk, check out these Foods That Help Stave Off Strokes After 40.
Don’t Miss: Is There A Treatment For Alzheimer’s
What Happens To Your Brain When You Drink Soda
However, many people don’t realize the staggering effects soda consumption may have on your brain. From your mental health to your cognition, read on to discover the effects soda can have on your brain, according to experts. And if you want to improve your diet in a hurry, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Diet Soda And Stroke Study
The study that is making headlines was published in a journal, appropriately named stroke. The title of the study is Sugar- and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia. Here are the basics of the study.
Researchers looked at 2,888; men and women over age 45 for the risk of stroke.; They also looked at 1,484 people over age 60 for signs of dementia.; In both groups, men made up about 45% of the people; .
- Baseline diet soda intake was estimated using food questionnaires that were filled out between 1991 and 2001. Then, starting in 2001, the researchers followed the people for the next 10 years to see what happened.
- After 10 years, the researchers recorded 97 cases of stroke . They also recorded 81 cases of dementia .
- The researchers noted that the more artificially sweetened diet sodas consumed, the greater the odds of getting a stroke or developing dementia .
- More specifically, people who drank diet sodas were almost 3 times more likely to have a stroke or get dementia.
- For those who drank sodas that contained sugar, there was no association with stroke or dementia.
Recommended Reading: Can Sleep Apnea Cause Alzheimer’s Disease
Artificial Sugar Substitutes Mess With Gut Health
A 2018 study in Molecules found that six artificial sweeteners had toxic effects on gut bacteria. Compromised gut bacteria can lead to issues such as leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes excessively permeable. Leaky gut has been linked to the development of Alzheimers disease and other dementias.
Are The Results As Strong As They Appear Probably Not
All observational studies have this limitation, but its worth repeating: you simply cannot adjust for all possible covariates that might impact the outcomes and also be related to the exposure . For example, people who drink diet soda may also be, on average, more likely to do yo-yo diets, have higher stress levels, or have any of other countless behaviors that might theoretically be tied to greater risk for disease.
Another problem with the study can be seen in the highlighted numbers below: the group that consumed the most calories had a lower BMI than groups that consumed fewer calories. Very strange. This may be due to random variation, but its also possible that the Food Frequency Questionnaires used by the researchers just werent very accurate. And indeed, FFQs are not very reliable at determining what an individual has eaten over a long period of time, especially in older individuals.
Moreover, in the table below, check out all the effect sizes. They’re not all particularly large and it’s possible that they may deviate depending on what was adjusted for in a particular model. Some researchers have proposed that instead of adjusting only for a few covariates, that all possible combinations of covariates be adjusted for and the median of that be presented instead. Given that the study didn’t do this and was not preregistered, much of these results can be taken as exploratory analyses rather than confirmatory analyses.
Also Check: What Is The 7th Stage Of Alzheimer’s
What Scientific Research Says
Over the years, numerous studies have reported links between diet soda with weight gain and serious, life-threatening diseases.;
Scientific opinion is mixed and, at times, conflicting. While studies focus on the dangers of artificial sweeteners, what’s important to understand is they aim to find correlations, not necessarily cause-and-effect:
Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Dementia
This is the first study to find a link between artificial sweeteners and dementia, mostly because this seems to be the first time researchers have looked for a connection between the two. I predict that this provocative finding will now prompt more researchers to ask the same question, which will shed a lot more light on the situation.
As it stands, the evidence that drinking diet soda may contribute to dementia risk is circumstantial, at best. This study simply observed that people who drink diet soda regularly are a lot more likely to eventually be diagnosed with Alzheimers disease or dementia.
However, further analysis found that those who drink diet soda are also more likely to be obese or have diabetes or heart disease. All of these conditions significantly increase your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. And if you are overweight or have diabetes, you might be more likely to drink diet soda because youre trying to reduce your sugar or calorie intake.;
So the real question here is: Does drinking diet soda increase your risk of dementia any more than having diabetes or being overweight already does?
And sure enough, when the researchers adjusted the analysis to account for these other risk factors, the link between diet soda consumption and dementia essentially disappeared.
Also Check: When A Loved One Has Dementia