Daily consumption of diet sodas increase dementia, stroke risk by three times

April 24, 2017

Consuming diet sodas every day increase the risk of dementia and stroke by three times, according to a study, providing more evidence that diet drinks are not a healthy alternative for sugary drinks.

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.

They found that people who consumed diet sodas on a daily basis were three times more likely to develop both dementia and stroke within the next 10 years compared to those who did not consumer diet sodas, Pase said.

“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 Alzheimer’s 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.

To their surprise, the team did not find the same risk for sugar-sweetened beverages. But they found other troubling signs. “In our first study we found that those who more frequently consume sugary beverages such as fruit juices and sodas had greater evidence of accelerated brain aging such as overall smaller brain volumes, they had poorer memory function and they also had smaller hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for memory consolidation,” Pase said.

Other experts also pointed out that sugary drinks are a major cause of obesity, diabetes, stroke and other ills.”Both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks may be hard on the brain,” Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of the neurology department at the University of Miami, and colleagues wrote in a commentary in the same journal.

Sacco, a former president of the American Heart Association (AHA), led another study that found women who drank diet sodas had a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and other types of heart death.

The researchers accounted for age, sex, education, how many calories people ate overall, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking. But they note that there may be others things that are also different about people who drink diet sodas.

Many may have switched to diet sodas because they had a health scare, for instance, including obesity and diabetes — both of which can raise the risk of stroke and dementia.

Pase noted that the risks are still low and people who love their daily fix of diet soda do not need to panic.”Even if someone is three times as likely to develop stroke or dementia, it is by no means a certain fate,” Pase said. “In our study, 3% of the people had a new stroke and 5% developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia.”

Fargo also said the study does not point to any specific mechanism for how a diet drink might damage the brain. It’s better for people to just do what the evidence shows will improve their health overall anyway — exercise and eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Fargo said that there is clearly a relationship between one’s heart health and brain health. However, people should pay close attention and be diligent about dietary and exercise habits, and controlling blood pressure as the solution is not as simple as “get rid of the diet soda”, he said.

Research has long shown that artificially sweetened drinks are not health drinks. While they may help people avoid more dangerous sugary sodas, studies show they don’t help people lose weight.

Water is always a good option for a drink, doctors agree. There is also coffee. Studies show that people who drink regular, moderate amounts of coffee are less likely to die from a range of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease.


Category: Features, Health alert

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