Health

Scientific Study Suggests Diet Sodas Linked To Dementia

| by Erik Kindel
Diet sodas like these could be linked to dementia.Diet sodas like these could be linked to dementia.

According to two new studies released Thursday, April 20., drinking diet or artificially sweetened sodas may increase the consumer's risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or suffering strokes. But the authors of both studies warn the findings could be a case of correlation and not causation.

But the studies do agree on one important fact: people who drink diet sodas tend to be in poorer health than those who don't.

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The first study published in the journal Stroke, conducted out of the Boston University School of Medicine, studied more than 5,000 people since 1948, beginning with a large pool and then conducting tests on their children and grandchildren.

Lead researcher Matthew Pase told NBC News that the study "found that those people who were consuming diet soda on a daily basis were three times as likely to develop both stroke and dementia within the next 10 years as compared to those who did not consume diet soda ... "

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The study did not track what artificial sweetener was used, only the consumption of artificial sweetener or sugar. It found "evidence to link consumption of artificially sweetened beverages with the risk of stroke" and "an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and an increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimer's disease," wrote the team.

But it also found major issues with sugar sweetened drinks, such as increased risk of diabetes and overall smaller brain volumes.

The second study appeared in Alzheimer's & Dementia and found higher consumption of sugary beverages by middle-aged consumers could be linked to pre-clinical Alzheimer's symptoms, like smaller total brain volume and poorer memory. According to Bloomberg, the results of the study are in line with those of the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study, which also found that higher sugar intake was associated with increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.

However, the authors of both studies cited the difficulties of drawing conclusions from their studies, specifically the limitations of establishing causality in either. The Alzheimer's & Dementia study used a homogeneous population and all the data from the questionnaire is inherently unreliable.

The Stroke study's authors pointed out that, in addition to also suffering from similar limitations as the other study, whatever associations could be drawn could actually be a case of reverse causality, "whereby sicker individuals consume diet beverages as a means of negating a further deterioration of health."

Nevertheless, whether or not these studies provided conclusive causal evidence, a link has been established. Through further research and public health studies, one day there might be an answer.

Sources: Bloomberg News, NBC News Photo Credit: [Mike Mozart]/Flickr

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