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Sodas Do More Harm Than Just Contribute to Obesity, Says Study

Tim Boyer's picture

“According to research from the USDA, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has increased dramatically in the United States over the past three decades, and it’s affecting our health,” says Dr. Adam Bernstein, Research Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute and the lead author of a recently published paper in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that is reportedly the first study analyzing the risk soda drinking poses toward experiencing a stroke.

While previous studies have focused on the health risks of drinking sugar-sweetened and diet soft drinks on the cardiovascular/metabolic system, this new study addresses soda consumption with stoke risk through a large scale study involving 43,371 men and 84,085 women over a time period exceeding the past 20 years.

Health data from the participants were pooled from two separate programs—“The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study” (male participants) and “The Nurses’ Health Study” (female participants) in which 1,416 strokes were documented in men and 2,938 strokes were documented in women during their respective 22 and 28-year-long study periods.

The researchers believe that sugar-sweetened sodas provide a substantial and rapid sugar load that may lead to rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin, which then can eventually lead to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and inflammation—all of which influences atherosclerosis, plaque stability and thrombosis that are the physical causes of stroke.

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“Soda remains the largest source of added sugar in the diet,” says Dr. Bernstein. “What we’re beginning to understand is that regular intake of these beverages sets off a chain reaction in the body that can potentially lead to many diseases—including stroke.”

Other findings from the study revealed that men and women who drink more than one serving of a sugar-sweetened soda per day had higher rates of high blood pressure and cholesterol and lower rates of physical activity and were more likely to consume high-fat red meat and dairy products. Interestingly, the study also showed that men and women who consumed diet sodas had a higher incidence of chronic disease and higher body mass indexes.

In the study, the researchers also made a comparison with the coffee drinkers and found that drinking one serving of coffee compared to drinking one serving of a sugary soda results in approximately a 10% reduced risk of developing a stroke.

The researchers concluded that while sodas have been equated with obesity as a health risk, that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas are associated with a significantly high risk of stroke and that this risk may be reduced by substituting alternative beverages—such as decaf or regular coffee—for soda.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “Soda consumption and the risk of stroke in men and women” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition May 2012 vol. 95 no. 5 1190-1199; Adam M. Bernstein et al.