In two new studies, an association between drinking diet drinks and the risk of stroke and dementia may have been found. While it has been established that consuming sugary beverages, including diet drinks, can have adverse effects on a person. These effects include gaining weight, a higher risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. The studies were published in the journals Stroke and Alzheimer’s & Dementia recently.
Consuming artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks were found to be linked with stroke and dementia. This risk included Alzheimer’s disease, which is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that starts slow and worsens over time. In 2015, there were about 30 million people affected worldwide by the disease. Even drinking sugary beverages that were not diet drinks were “associated with markers for pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease,” Bloomberg reported.
Gathering data from the Framingham Heart Study, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine conducted a “multi-decade” review with more than 5,000 volunteers in 1948. Since 1971, the participants have also included their original volunteers children and grandchildren. The Framingham Heart Study examined participants every four years with a questionnaire surveying their diets over the past year. It was during this study that the Boston University researchers also analyzed data from their grandchildren.
According to Bloomberg, the other researcher study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that consuming high amounts of sugary beverages was linked to a pattern that is consistent with preclinical Alzheimer’s. This also included a “smaller total brain volume” and poor memory. Researchers called the data “striking” because of the sample age of the participants who were middle-aged.
Naturally, those in the beverage industry are skeptical of the findings. William Dermody Jr, vice president of policy at the American Beverage Association, called the data results to be the result of “age, family history of Alzheimer’s, and genetics” but not sugar intake. According to the study published in Stroke, after adjusting for age, sex, education, calorie intake, and other factors, there was an “increased risk” of stroke, and “all-causes dementia.”
More studies, the researchers said, must be done before any conclusive data can be taken as fact. U.S. News and World Report reported that despite the dire results of the study, Matthew Pase, study author, said “the study didn’t reveal a direct cause-and-effect relationship,” between the two. Primary care physicians warn patients, however, to be mindful of their diet and exercise. The less the sugary drinks, including diet drinks, the better. Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, spoke to CNN saying that there were facts that artificial sweeteners were not ideal for people’s bodies and brains.
By Cheryl Werber