Diet sodas may be tied to stroke, dementia risk

Dr Matthew Pase, of Boston University School of Medicine in the United States, said: "Our findings indicate an association between higher sugary beverage intake and brain atrophy, including lower brain volume and poorer memory".

A person consuming at least a can of diet soda daily every is 2.96 times more likely to suffer an ischaemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than someone who drank them less than once a week, the study found.

According to Medscape Medical News, the research is purely observational therefore researchers can't present cause and effect in the study.

Excess sugar has always been associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases like obesity, heart disease and Type-2 diabetes, but little is known about its long-term effects on the human brain. For example, people who more frequently consumed diet soda were also more likely to be diabetic, which is thought to increase the risk of dementia.

"When the researchers accounted for other risk factors for Alzheimer's, such as risk genes, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol levels and weight, this significant association was lost, suggesting that these drinks are not the whole story".

And Americans have been encouraged to switch to diet drinks. The main limitation, Pase said, is the important point that an observational study like this can not prove that drinking artificially-sweetened drinks is linked to strokes or dementia, but it does identify an intriguing trend that will need to be explored in other studies.

"I was surprised that sugary beverage intake was not associated with either the risks of stroke or dementia because sugary beverages are known to be unhealthy", Pase said.

Researchers from Boston University studied more than 4,000 adults over the age of 45 and found the diet drinks are not healthier alternative and it is strongly suggested to stick to water or milk.

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The results showed that people who consumed at least one artificially-sweetened drink a day were three times as likely to develop ischemic stroke and 2.9 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease dementia.

"The FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration], World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion they are safe for consumption", the association added.

"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.

Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association, said this study adds to a growing body of science that shows the importance of diet for the brain. "In our study, three percent of the people had a new stroke and five percent developed dementia, so we're still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia".

However, you may have to stop drinking these beverages, irrespective of their properties, if you don't want to risk your memory or increase your chances of stroke and dementia. 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.

The American Beverage Association concurred.

Water is always a good option, doctors agree.

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