Soft drinks - even diet - up stroke risk

April 25, 2012 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Soft drinks - even diet - up stroke risk

We've heard repeatedly that soft drinks - including pop, energy drinks and vitamin waters - are bad for your health.  Drink them often and studies suggest you're more likely to experience weight gain, not to mention develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout and coronary heart disease.

Now, a new study conducted in 127,456 healthy men and women, has linked soft drinks - sugar-sweetened and diet - with a higher risk of stroke.  The findings also revealed that substituting coffee or skim milk for soft drinks guards against stroke.

The study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed men and women for up to 28 years. Higher intakes of both sugar-sweetened and low-calorie soft drinks increased the risk of stroke. 

Men who drank at least one serving (e.g. one glass, one bottle or one can) of a sugar-sweetened soft drink each day had a 8 percent higher stroke risk compared to men who didn't drink any.  Women who consumed regular pop saw their risk increase by 19 percent.

Drinking one or more diet soft drinks per day also upped stroke risk by 10 percent in men and 18 percent in women.

Sugar sweetened soft drinks were associated with ischemic stroke whereas diet soft drinks were linked to hemorrhagic stroke.

Once consumed soft drinks cause a rapid increase in blood glucose (sugar) and insulin, the hormone that removes glucose from the bloodstream. Over time, this can impair the body's ability to use insulin and cause inflammation. These two changes influence hardening of the arteries, the stability of fatty plaques in artery walls and blood clotting, all risk factors for stroke.

There's also concern than high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks can cause metabolic changes that increase the likelihood of stroke.

As well, because the body doesn't regulate our intake of sugary drinks in the same way as foods - liquid calories don't put the brakes on our appetite - drinking them could lead to excess calories and weight gain.

Regular and diet colas are also a potential source of advanced glycation products, complexes of proteins and sugar that trigger inflammation and free radical damage in the body.

Replacing one serving of regular soft drink with a serving of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee lowered the risk of stroke by 10 percent.  Swapping coffee for diet soft drinks reduced stroke risk by 11 to 13 percent.

Coffee contains natural compounds called chlorogenic acids, antioxidants thought to dampen inflammation in the body and improve how the body uses insulin. Coffee is also a source of magnesium, a mineral linked to blood sugar regulation and healthy blood pressure.

Drinking skim milk was associated with an 11 percent lower risk compared to diet soft drinks.

The benefits of low fat dairy foods are likely due to their calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin D content, nutrients that lower blood pressure.

It's estimated that eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and increasing exercise can reduce your risk of stroke by 50 percent. 

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.