A study by researchers at the Wellness Institute of Cleveland, and Harvard University, shows that the consumption of sugary soft drinks, even low-calorie ones, is associated with an increased risk of stroke (CVA).
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the first to examine the effect of soft drinks on the risk of stroke. On the other hand, the study also showed that consumption of coffee, caffeinated or decaffeinated, decreased the risk.
The research analyzed the consumption of soft drinks in 43,371 men between 1986 and 2008, and 84,085 women between 1980 and 2008. During these periods, they documented 2938 cases of stroke in women and 1416 in men. Previous research has linked the consumption of soft drinks with weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and coronary artery disease.
According to Dr. Adam Bernstein, author of the study, soft drinks are currently the largest source of sugar in the average diet, and regular intake of these drinks triggers a chain reaction in the body that potentially can lead to many diseases, including stroke. The researchers explain that in sugary soft drinks, sugar loading can lead to a rapid increase in blood glucose and insulin, which therefore, over time, can lead to impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance (meaning the insulin loses it’s power to work properly), and inflammation.
These physiological changes lead to the establishment of plaques that cause atherosclerosis and thrombosis, which are risk factors for ischemic stroke; this risk is greater in women than in men. In comparison, coffee contains chlorogenic acid, lignans and magnesium, which act as antioxidants and may reduce the risk of stroke. A portion of decaffeinated coffee was associated with a 10% lower risk of stroke.
Furthermore, the study results show that men and women who consumed more than one serving of soda with sugar per day, had higher rates of high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels and lower rates of physical activity. Those who drank soft drinks more often were also more likely to eat red meat and products with high fat content. And, perhaps surprisingly, even men and women who consumed low-calorie soft drinks (Zero, Diet or Light), had higher incidence of chronic diseases and a higher body mass index (BMI).
Soft drink consumption has increased dramatically in Brazil over the past three decades. Currently, according to the Ministry of Health, 29.8% of Brazilians consume soft drinks at least five times a week. This data emphasizes the importance of encouraging people to replace soft drinks with other types of drinks, including water!
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