Diet Sodas are Bad for your Brain & Heart

Diet sodas are bad for your brain, and your heart, suggests two studies published by the same authors in the journals Alzheimer’s & Dementia and Stroke respectively.

Sodas damage both your brain and your heart. Consuming excess sugar, mostly in the form of fructose found in these drinks, has been linked with higher risks of developing medical complications pertaining to these two organs. The new research shows that a frequent consumption of sugary drinks is linked with a greater likelihood of having a poorer memory, a smaller brain volume, and a hippocampus significantly reduced in size. Furthermore, daily drinking diet sodas is associated with almost three times greater a risk to develop dementia and stroke than people who did not have the drink daily.

These findings result from two studies conducted by a team of researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (MED).

“These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion,” says Sudha Seshadri from MED, senior author of both papers.

Seshadri explains that the consumption of sugary drinks does not appear to have positive aspects, and that replacing them with artificially-sweetened drinks does not protect one either. According to her, we should, perhaps, just get used to “good old-fashioned water”.

One of the aims of the research was to investigate the long-term effects of excess sugar on the human brain, says corresponding author Matthew Pase from MED. Pase and his team used sugary drinks as a measure of the overall sugar dietary intake. Data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) was used for the first paper: the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and cognitive tests of the people registered under this research were analysed. Participants who consumed over two sugary drinks (soda, soft drinks, fruit juice) daily showed several signs of accelerated brain ageing: a smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a smaller hippocampus, an area of the brain important for learning and memory. According to the researchers, these constitute risk factors for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers also observed that having a minimum of one diet soda per day was linked with reduced brain volume.

For the second study, data from older participants was examined. The researchers categorised the participants into two groups: those who had suffered from a stroke or who had developed dementia resulting from Alzheimer’s disease, and those who had not. While no correlation was found between drinking sugary beverages and stroke/dementia, the researchers found that those drinking at least one diet soda on a daily basis were three time more likely to develop stroke and dementia.

It is to be noted that the researchers have only shown a correlation between the consumption of the sugary drinks and the medical conditions. They point out that they have not demonstrated how do the drinks lead to them.

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