Researchers from Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute and Harvard University have found that greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas is associated with a higher risk of stroke.
The study – recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – is the first to examine soda’s effect on stroke risk. Previous research has linked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout and coronary artery disease.
“Soda remains the largest source of added sugar in the diet,” said Adam Bernstein, M.D., Sc.D., study author and Research Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “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.”
The research analyzed soda consumption among 43,371 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study between 1986 and 2008, and 84,085 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2008. During that time, 2,938 strokes were documented in women while 1,416 strokes were documented in men.
“The answer to the increase in strokes from drinking soda is quite simple – sugar is a metabolic acid and is poisonous to the body in all of its forms,” states Dr. Robert O. Young. Dr. Young further states, “other acids including carbonic and phosphoric acid also contribute to inflammation, atherosclerosis, acidic plaque, thrombosis, obesity, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, diabetes high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.” In sugar-sweetened sodas, the sugar load may lead to rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin which, over time, may lead to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and inflammation. These physiologic changes influence atherosclerosis, plaque stability and thrombosis – all of which are risk factors of ischemic stroke. This risk for stroke appears higher in women than in men.
The pH of soda drinks are highly acidic with a pH of less than 3 and an oxidative reduction potential of over +450mV. According to Dr. Young, “soda sucks the life right out of you!”
In addition, study findings show that men and women who consumed more than one serving of sugar-sweetened soda per day had higher rates of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and lower physical activity rates. Those who drank soda more frequently were also more likely to eat red meat and whole-fat dairy products. Men and women who consumed low-calorie soda had a higher incidence of chronic disease and a higher body mass index (BMI). The investigators controlled for these other factors in their analysis to determine the independent association of soda consumption on stroke risk.
“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,” said Dr. Bernstein. “These findings reiterate the importance of encouraging individuals to substitute alternate beverages for soda.”
Dr. Young suggests, “drinking soda drinks compromises the alkaline design of the body setting the stage for sickness, dis-ease, disease and death. People are digging their graves with their own teeth when they ingest foods and beverages that are highly acidic/toxic to the blood and tissues. These acidic foods and beverages include, animal flesh, dairy products, alcohol. coffee, tea, soda drinks, sports drinks, high sugar fruit drinks, vinegar, and sugar in all of its forms both natural and artificial.”
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