If you’re like millions of Americans, you’ve read over the past decade or more that sugar-laden soft drinks and other sugary juices are bad for your health. So over the years you’ve made the switch to diet soda, because it’s the healthier choice, right?
Guess again. Diet soft drinks have been connected with a wide range of health issues – and now comes an authoritative study that appears to establish a link between consumption of diet soft drinks and two of the most fearful health crises of all: stroke and dementia. This study has become the topic of numerous media articles, including this one which appeared recently in the Washington Post. This information should concern us all, because when we drink diet soda even in modest amounts we could be increasing our health risks significantly.
As the Washington Post article put it, “Americans trying to stay healthy have abandoned sugary drinks for diet drinks in droves over the past few decades on the theory that the latter is better than the former. Now, more evidence has emerged to refute that rationale.” The article goes on to reveal that a new study appears to show “an association between diet soda and both stroke and dementia, with people drinking diet soda daily being almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia as those who consumed it weekly or less.”
The study was conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine and reported in the medical journal Stroke. Researchers did emphasize that the results of the study did not conclusively show that drinking diet soda caused strokes and dementia – but the study definitely shows a correlation. According to the Post, the study tracked almost 2,900 individuals age 45 and older for ten years, watching for development of a stroke. It simultaneously observed nearly 1,500 subjects age 60-plus checking for signs of dementia. The results were sobering. Those subjects who reported drinking at least one artificially sweetened drink per day were three times more likely to suffer a stroke, and also about three times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. This result was compared versus those in the study who said they consumed less than one such beverage per week on average.
(Interestingly, while regular sugary soft drinks and other sweetened beverages are associated with a range of physical ailments such as diabetes and obesity, there was no correlation in the study connecting sugared beverages with strokes and dementia.)
No one knows why this apparent correlation exists. The Washington Post article stated that the diet beverages covered in the study contained various sweeteners approved by the FDA, including saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, and stevia, among others. Another article we read postulated that diet soda has been shown to elevate blood pressure which may have been a contributing factor, but the Washington Post article didn’t mention that possibility. Also, researchers describing the study results were quick to point out that the actual number of study group participants developing dementia or suffering a stroke was low – about 5 percent and 3 percent respectively. It’s important to reiterate (as the American Beverage Association was quick to point out when this story hit the press) that this study does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between diet soda and strokes or dementia. However, in understated scientific jargon, researchers implied there may be a smoking gun here somewhere. This study, they said, “does identify an intriguing trend that will need to be explored in other studies.”
What’s the bottom line? One expert put it succinctly: “Have more water and have less diet soda. And don’t switch to real soda.” If you’re someone who drinks a lot of soda, with or without sugar, you’re not doing yourself any favors, and you could be opening the door to a host of major medical issues down the road. Our advice is to get a handle on your soda habit.
While you’re at it, now is also a great time to get a handle on your retirement planning. Maintaining your health is vitally important as we age, so planning for your medical needs is an essential component of a strong retirement plan – but it’s certainly not the only thing you need to plan for. A comprehensive retirement plan, the kind we at AgingOptions call a LifePlan, weaves five key elements of your future together: your medical protection, your legal preparation, your financial plan, your housing options, and even a communication plan for your family. When all these five fit together into a seamless whole, your future is secure. You can protect your assets in retirement, avoid becoming a burden to your loved ones, and escape the trap of unplanned institutional care.
If you’re ready to learn more, we have an invitation for you. Plan now to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar, where in just a few hours you’ll gain powerful insight into planning for the retirement you’ve always dreamed of. For dates, times and online registration, click here. You can also call us during the week and we’ll gladly sign you up for the seminar of your choice. It will be a pleasure to talk with you soon at an upcoming AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar.
(originally reported at www.washingtonpost.com)