This month a fascinating article, “Sugar- and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia” was published in an American Heart Association journal called Stroke. Researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study to see if consumption of sugar sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages were associated with stroke or dementia. Researchers chose to pursue this study because it had been previously found that intake of such beverages is linked to cardiometabolic risk factors.
Researchers concluded that intake of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and dementia of Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar sweetened beverages were not associated with dementia or stroke.
I find these findings both fascinating and likely important. However, this study was observational, so we cannot determine a cause and effect relationship between artificially sweetened beverages and stroke or dementia. More research must be done to determine if similar results can be replicated, and to determine if there is indeed a cause and effect relationship. For now, we can see a correlation between these factors.
The sweeteners that were commonly added to beverages at the time that data was collected for this study included saccharin, acesulfame-K, and aspartame. Other artificial sweeteners you may find in your drinks these days include acesulfame, neotame, sucralose and stevia.
I am often asked whether artificial sweeteners are okay or safe to use. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the above artificial sweeteners are considered safe. If you are interested, here is a link to the FDA’s website and their explanation/description for each sweetener.
I do like to share that for me personally, I do not care to consume artificial sweeteners, additives, colors, etc. I like to provide my family with foods that are made with ingredients that are not made in a lab. Perhaps this decision is not considered evidenced based, but it is definitely what I feel is best for my growing family, likely based on intuition and what I consider to be logic! We will see where research on this topic takes us in the future.
My greatest take away from this is that when it comes to choosing healthy beverages we all need to learn to love water. It can be plain water, iced water, water with lemon or lime squeezed in it, water infused with fruits, or water with carbonation in it. There is no better beverage for our bodies!