Studies Link Diet Soda To Higher Health Risks
Many Americans have been attempting to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. This includes switching from typical sugary beverages to diet drinks. This has been happening more and more over the last few decades. As soon as everyone realized the dangers of soda and the high sugar content, the switch was straight to the cans of diet soda. But is diet soda even worse than standard soda? Does diet soda increase your risk of having a stroke or developing dementia?
A new study was published by Matthew Pase, a neurologist at the Boston University School of Medicine, looking into the relationship between diet soda and health complications. The study was published in the journal, Stroke, and has brought this subject to the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Pase’s study concluded that there is a link between diet soda and increased risks of dementia and stroke. Individuals who drink diet soda daily are almost three times more at risk, over 10 years, compared to individuals did not drink diet sodas. The risk for increased illness includes “a higher risk of ischemic stroke” as well as the most common form of Alzheimer’s, known as dementia. This study observed 2,888 individuals over the age of 45 to determine risk for a stroke. A separate 1,484 individuals were studied for the possibility of dementia. This second group were individuals over the age of 60.
Of course, the research only shows a correlation, like any pattern that could be determined between two subjects. This study was described as a hypothesis only. Pase simply suggests [diet drinks] “might not be a healthy alternative” after all. He emphasized this point through a video explanation of his findings. He also noted there were many limitations and added points from the America Heart Association:
- Participants were overwhelmingly white
- Ethnic preference may influence the decision between sugar drinks and artificially sweetened drinks
- Participants drank diet sodas more commonly
- Participants may have been health conscious
Pase said an important limitation is that “an observational study like this cannot prove that drinking artificially-sweetened drinks is linked to strokes or dementia”. This has to be emphasized as it’s merely an observation. These medical observations are important to the breakthrough of science, even if they are not conclusive. Pase adds it is “an intriguing trend” that should be explored more.
There have been other studies conducted regarding the correlation between soda drinking and increased risk of dementia and stroke. None of these theories or studies are particularly conclusive. Along with these studies, there is a theory called “survival bias”. This theory suggests the results are biased against diet soda from the beginning. This theory formulates the idea that individuals who commonly drink sugary soda have already passed away due to issues, like heart disease. Therefore, there wasn’t an accurate enough representation of these individuals to find a real relationship between soda, sugar, and these illnesses.
Science aside, it would make sense if there is a stroke risk with all types of soda. Especially in those who consume more than one each day. It doesn’t really matter if they are artificially sweetened or sweetened with sugar. Neither is a “higher risk” for stroke or dementia based on the type. The risk is on the amount consumed. The same could be said about anything. Whether you’re drinking diet soda, regular soda, coffee, or energy drinks, you should always be careful. Moderation is the key to healthy living. If you’re excessively drinking any type of beverage (aside from water), you should try to cut back.
It doesn’t hurt to suggest that people are cautious about what they drink.
Additional commentary from Pase suggests avoiding sugary drink altogether. Rachel K. Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, says “We need to be cautious in the interpretation of these results.” She added that the results don’t prove cause and effect. There is a great deal of literature that proves research against sugary drinks. Johnson adds “the message is not to switch to sugary drinks”. Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, suggests “have more water and have less diet soda”. He added that no one ever said diet soda was healthy. It should not be considered a health food.
Drinking sugary beverages can lead to:
- Heart disease
- Increase blood sugar
- Increase sugar cravings
- Tooth decay
- Weight gain
Of course, the American Beverage Association wanted to add their opinion regarding diet soda. They suggested there are “hundreds of scientific studies” that prove low-calorie sweeteners are safe. Their message continued to say they “respect the mission” of organizations that are looking to prevent issues like stroke and dementia. However, they stress that the study’s observations “cannot prove cause and effect”. The American Heart Association said, “study of sugary drinks did not find an association with stroke or dementia”.
Luckily, there are many delicious beverages that easily replace soda altogether:
- Tea (hot/cold)
- Natural fruit juice
- Frozen beverages
- Water with flavoring
Whether you believe that diet soda is linked to stroke or dementia is up to you. The scientists are still out on the final result. However, Pase is right that this type of study does have an interesting relationship. It should probably be investigated further. This time, researchers should choose a broader group of participants to include different racial profiles and varied lifestyles. This will help them to get a better idea of the population as a whole.
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