In a new study by the American Heart Association, researchers report that artificially sweetened drinks may cause brain problems such as dementia and stroke.
It’s the first time researchers manage to find an association between artificially sweetened drinks and severe diseases.
The study builds upon past data showing that sugary beverages (which include both regular and diet sodas) are linked to 184,000 yearly adult deaths worldwide.
Diet soda, or just soda, is bad for you
Researchers studied 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60, all residing in Framingham, Massachusetts. Those older than 45 were supervised for stroke, while those older than 60 were supervised for dementia.
Then, researchers analyzed the participant’s diet based on how much sugar-sweetened drinks they had between 1991 and 2001.
Results showed that those who drank one sugary drink per day were almost three times as likely to suffer from dementia, while those who drank one to six beverages per week were 2.6 times more likely to suffer a stroke.
Responding to the study, the American Beverage Association (ABA) stated that artificially sweetened drinks, including those that employ low-calorie sweeteners, are safe for consumption.
“While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect,” stated a spokeswoman for the ABA in response to the study.
One of the study’s co-authors suggests that sugary drinks are especially harmful to blood vessels and arteries. Dr. Ralph Sacco argues that most strokes occur due to the hardening of arteries. In that same note, dementia risk increases when arteries get hardened. He says that, although they could theorize that this is how the drinks become so dangerous, it would be hard to prove.
Sugary drink consumption is directly related to higher mortality rates
According to a study by Tufts University experts, consuming sugary beverages is believed to be the main contributor to the death of at least 184,000 adults every year.
Researchers note that each country has a different rate of deaths caused by each sweetened beverage, although the resulting evidence should be more than enough to encourage people to cut them from their diet.
Authors of the study highlight that this is the “first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages,” taking into account death rates from diabetes, cancer, and heart disease up to the year 2010.
In the study, researchers took into account anything that could be classified as a sugary drink, including sweetened iced teas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, or any drink containing at least 50 kcal worth of sugar per 8-ounce serving. They did not take into account natural fruit juice.
The countries with the highest death rates in the study were Mexico and the United States, with 24,000 and 25,000 yearly deaths respectively. The mortality varied depending on how populated the country is, evidenced in examples such as Japan, which had a mortality percentage lower than 1 percent for those over 65 years old. At least 8 of the 20 countries with the highest death rates linked to sugar-sweetened beverages are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The data included individuals who completed surveys from 1980 and 2010 from 51 different countries. Other studies were taken into account, which helped researchers obtain a general picture of the global impact of sugary drinks.
They found out that sugar-sweetened beverages could be the causing a yearly rate of 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 6,450 deaths from cancer.
The baseline was that, apparently, sweetened beverages offer no health benefits whatsoever. This means that even a slight reduction in how much-refined sugar a person consumes can potentially reduce its risk of developing diabetes or becoming obese.
“The health impact of sugar-sweetened beverage intake on the young is important because younger adults form a large sector of the workforce in many countries, so the economic impact of sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths and disability in this age group can be significant,” stated Gitanjali Singh, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
Singh also referred to the issue that, if young individuals keep consuming too much sugar as they get older, the effects of aging will add up to those of excessive sugar intake, which increases potential death and disability rates.
Doctors agree that it is not only a matter of drinking sugary drinks or not, but rather an issue of diet and lifestyle which is inherently linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes risk. Furthermore, heart disease and diabetes are known to be associated with dementia.
Health specialists always suggest cutting down on processed drinks and to take up regular cardiovascular exercise, as it helps keep a healthy state of body and mind. Just by leaving sugary drinks outside one’s diet one can achieve lasting and significant results when it comes to body weight and an improved state of health.
Source: American Heart Association