Women who consume sugary soft drinks almost every day are 83 percent more likely to have a certain type of stroke than women who rarely drink soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.
Although the findings don't prove that sweet drinks are to blame for the higher stroke risk, other studies have shown links between high sugar intake and damaged arteries. The results agree with many other studies linking sugary drinks to a greater risk of heart attacks, obesity and diabetes.
For the study, researchers from Osaka University in Japan had nearly 40,000 people answered a dietary, health and lifestyle questionnaire, first in 1990 and again in 1995 and 2000.
They split the people into four groups: those who rarely drank soft drinks, those who had one to two cups a week, those who had three to four cups a week, and those who had a soft drink nearly every day.
Soft drinks were considered sugar-sweetened soft drinks and juices (e.g. fruit punch), not diet drinks or 100 percent fruit juices.
The research group tracked how many people developed heart disease or had a stroke between the beginning of the study period until 2008.
Women were more likely to suffer from a stroke if they had a soft drink just about every day compared to women who never drank them. Out of 11,800 women who rarely had a soft drink, 205 (1.7 percent) went on to have an ischemic stroke. Of the 921 women in the drink-a-day category, 28 (3 percent) had such a stroke.
An ischemic stroke is caused when a blood clot interrupts blood flow to the brain. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, excess alcohol, overweight and stress.
There was no link in men between soft drink consumption and stroke risk. It's possible that men with early signs of cardiovascular disease might have cut down on their soda drinking. So when they're diagnosed with stroke down the road, those with early disease were drinking less.
High soft drink intake is tied to weight gain, elevated blood sugar and fat levels, and hypertension, which in turn is linked to an increased risk of ischemic stroke.
The lead researcher said there's enough evidence against sugary drinks to justify efforts to curb their popularity and point people to healthier choices, such as coffee, tea and water.
SOURCE: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online October 17, 2012.
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