Sticking to a balanced diet and establishing good exercise habits can be an essential part of overcoming some of the challenges aging puts on the body. But even beyond what you eat at each meal, research has shown that what’s in your cup could also have a major effect on your health. And according to two studies, drinking this type of beverage twice a day can significantly increase your risk of developing dementia. Read on to see what you might want to keep out of your cup so often.
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Drinking sugary beverages twice a day can increase your risk of dementia.
In one study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia in March 2017, a team of researchers analyzed data collected from 4,000 people in the Framingham Heart Study’s Offspring and Third-Generation cohorts. These groups are comprised of the children and grandchildren of the original participants who enrolled in the landmark study in 1948.
The team then assessed each participant’s beverage consumption habits, considering those who drank two sugary beverages a day—which included fruit juice, soda, or other soft drinks—as well as those who consumed more than three drinks of just soda alone per week. Through the use of MRI scanning and cognitive tests, the researchers found that participants who drank two sugary drinks a day showed “multiple signs of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus,” all of which are considered risk factors for the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study found drinking just one diet soda a day can increase your risk of dementia or stroke.
A second study, published in the journal Stroke in April of 2017, also set out to study the effect of beverage consumption on brain health but focused only on the older Offspring cohort from the Framingham Heart Study. The team assessed 2,888 people at least 45 years old by recording their beverage consumption at three different points over seven years before monitoring them for another 10 years for any signs of a stroke. An identical analysis was also performed on 1,484 participants over age 60, but who were examined for signs of dementia over 10 years instead.
Unlike the first study, the results didn’t find any conclusive links between high consumption of sugary beverages and risk of stroke or dementia. However, data did show that participants who drank one diet soda a day were about three times more likely to experience a stroke or develop dementia.
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Researchers concluded that water is a healthier alternative to soda and sweet beverages.
The researchers ultimately concluded that the results of both studies pointed more towards a correlation between sugary beverages and dementia instead of a causational connection. But while they said further research would be needed to see exactly how sweetened drinks were affecting or potentially damaging the brain, there was still sufficient data to caution against consuming too many sweet beverages.
“These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion,” Sudha Seshadri, PhD, a senior author on both studies, as well as a professor of neurology at Boston University (BU) School of Medicine and faculty member at BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said in a statement. “It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help. Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to,” she suggested.
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The researchers also recommended people watch their intake of diet and artificially sweetened drinks.
Even though there may have been some conflicting data in the studies, the study’s authors still found compelling data that artificial sweeteners didn’t provide a healthier option when it comes to cracking open a can. “It was somewhat surprising that diet soda consumption led to these outcomes,” Matthew Pase, PhD, a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and the Framingham Heart Study, said in a statement.
“Our study shows a need to put more research into this area given how often people drink artificially-sweetened beverages,” Pase concluded. “Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option. We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages.”
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