t’s no secret that artificially sweetened drinks are bad for us — many studies have shed light on that. Whether it’s soda, energy drinks or some other sugary beverage, odds are it’s not the best thing you could be drinking.
Just because artificially sweetened beverages are bad for our bodies, this doesn’t stop us from popping open a cold soda after a long day. Recently, a team of researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine found that an intake of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with a higher risk for stroke and dementia.
The researchers looked at whether sugar or artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with ten-year risks of stroke and dementia. While drinks sweetened with sugar can have negative effects on the body, artificially sweetened beverages need more research, the authors said.
“Like sugar-sweetened soft drinks, artificially sweetened soft drinks are associated with risk factors for stroke and dementia, although the mechanisms are incompletely understood, and inconsistent findings have been reported,” the study said.
The study used its data from The Framingham Heart Study, a study originating from Framingham, Massachusetts in 1971 with 5,124 volunteers. The participants have been studied about every four years, with the latest cycle ending in 2014.
Researchers began looking at the risk for stroke and dementia beginning at 1998 and removed any participants with prevalent stroke or neurological health issues as well as those whose age was less than 45 years old.
They also removed individuals with prevalent dementia and mild cognitive impairments. After eliminations, there were 2,888 stroke individuals and 1,484 dementia individuals who participated in the study.
Participants took a food-frequency questionnaire and answered questions about how often they consumed one glass, bottle or can of a variety of sugary items on average in a year. There were questions on sugar-sweetened soft drinks, fruit juice, artificially sweetened soft drinks and non-carbonated, sugar-sweetened drinks.
The researchers even looked at interactions between beverage intake and waist-to-hip ratio, the status of certain proteins within the body and more. Overall, greater recent consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks was associated with an increased risk of stroke, the study authors said.
A risk for dementia was found for those who had a daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks. The effects of drinks that weren’t artificially sweetened were significantly different, the authors said.
“Total caloric intake increased across categories of total sugary beverage but not artificially sweetened soft drink intake categories,” the authors said. “The prevalence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus decreased with more frequent consumption of total sugary beverages but increased with greater consumption of artificially sweetened soft drink.”
Artificially sweetened beverages are usually sweetened with saccharin, acesulfame, neotame or sucralose. The synthetic substances are sweeter than sucrose, and only small amounts are needed to generate sweetness, the authors said.
“As the consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks is increasing in the community, along with the prevalence of stroke and dementia, future research is needed to replicate our findings and to investigate the mechanisms underlying the reported associations,” the authors said.