Do This and You Sabotage the Benefits of Cutting Down on Sugar

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Do This and You Sabotage the Benefits of Cutting Down on Sugar about undefined
The Centers for Disease Control report the average American consumes 13 to 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day, much of it in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages. I’ve seen estimates that average annual sugar consumption is around 150 pounds per person. Someone else is eating my 150 pounds because I seldom touch the stuff. And with all the recent warnings about the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and more, many people are likewise looking to cut down on their sugar intake. Trouble is, for too many it's a case of “out of the frying pan into the fire” because they are switching to artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened drinks instead. And when it comes to your brain, the chemical substitutes for sugar may be even worse than the real thing. Here’s what my great research staff tells me.

Sugary Drinks Age the Brain

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine carried out two studies earlier this year. In the first, they took MRI scans and conducted neuropsychological testing on about 4000 people. They found those drinking two sugary drinks of any kind per day -- fruit juice, soda and other soft drinks -- had lower total brain volume, a poorer performance on tests of episodic memory (recall of events that happen in a person's life), and a shrunken hippocampus, a key area for learning and memory --compared to those drinking less than one sugary drink a day. These multiple signs of accelerated brain aging were consistent with previous research using animals. But if you think that’s bad, listen to this. . .

Artificially Sweetened Beverages Triple the Risk of Alzheimer's

In their second study published two months later, the same researchers took a different look at beverage intake. They enrolled 2,888 people over the age of 45, looking specifically for incidence of stroke, and 1,484 people past age 60, looking for signs of dementia over a period of 10 years. At the end of the decade there were 97 cases of stroke and 81 of dementia, of which 63 were consistent with Alzheimer's. After taking into account sex, education, smoking, physical activity, calorie intake and diet quality, they found those with higher intakes of artificially sweetened soft drinks had almost triple the risk of both stroke and Alzheimer's. Surprisingly, they found that sugar-sweetened drinks were not associated with either stroke or dementia. While previous studies have linked diet soda to an increased risk of stroke, this is the first study to link these drinks to dementia.

For Better Health, Drink Water

One member of the research team, Matthew Pace said, "Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option. "We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages." While it’s true this study did not find a link between sugary drinks and dementia, readers of this newsletter know that dementia is closely associated with diabetes and prediabetes, which in turn are almost always caused by a high-carbohydrate diet. The smart move is to avoid both sugar and its substitutes. And don’t forget, the first study from this team did find sugar is associated with brain shrinkage and poorer performance on cognitive tests. Professor of neurology and senior author of the study Dr. Sudha Seshadri said there are no health benefits from drinking soda of any kind, either diet or not. "These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it's strong data and a very strong suggestion. "Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to."

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