Sugary Drinks Cause Aging In Brain And Poor Memory, Study Finds

People might think that drinking diet soda is the healthier alternative to the more sugary options.

Research from the USA has suggested that drinking one "diet", artificially sweetened drink per day may increase the risk of dementia or stroke by up to three times.

"Our findings indicate an association between higher sugary beverage intake and brain atrophy, including lower brain volume and poorer memory", explained corresponding author Matthew Pase, PhD, fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and investigator at the FHS.

The participants were overwhelmingly white, and it is possible that ethnic preferences may influence how often people select sugary or artificially sweetened drinks, Pase said.

For its stroke analysis, the seven-year study looked at the beverage intake of 2,888 Framingham Heart Study participants older than 45 years old.

"More research is needed to study the health effects of diet drinks so that consumers can make informed choices concerning their health", he said.

The American Beverage Association reiterated the study doesn't prove cause and effect.

"I know that when we first focused our data on artificial sweetened beverages and stroke risk few years back, I stopped drinking them", he said. Diabetics, as a group, drink more diet soda on average, as a way to limit their sugar consumption, and some of the correlation between diet soda intake and dementia may be due to diabetes, as well as other vascular risk factors.

The Stroke study, meanwhile, found an association with artificially sweetened beverages and stroke and dementia, while not finding a similar association for consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, an observation the authors characterized as "intriguing".

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Drinking one sugar-free fizzy drink a day has been linked to a threefold increased risk of stroke and dementia, compared with people who drank one diet fizzy drink a week or less.

Research has long shown that artificially sweetened drinks are not health drinks.

Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association, called the new study "a piece of a larger puzzle" when it comes to better understanding how your diet and behaviors impact your brain. They were monitored for 10 years, with 97 cases of stroke among over-45s and 81 cases of dementia in over-60s.

Previous studies have looked at artificial sweeteners impact on stroke risk.

"Both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks may be hard on the brain."
They found that people who drank at least one artificially-sweetened beverage a day were three times as likely to develop ischemic stroke and 2.9 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease dementia.

"We know that having too much sugar in the diet and eating too many unhealthy foods high in cholesterol is associated with developing obesity and diabetes".

Diet drinks account for a quarter market of the total sweetened beverages.

Gavin Partington, director-general of the industry-funded British Soft Drinks Association, said: "Despite their claims, the authors of this observational study admit they found no cause and effect and provide no science-based evidence whatsoever to support their theories".