Cola consumption raises stroke riskA new study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that drinking soft drinks either with sugar or sweeteners raises stroke risk significantly.   These results are from a study that followed 127000 individuals for over 20 years.

There were 1416 strokes in men over 842000 person years and 2938 strokes in women over 2188000 person years of followup.  The average increase of stroke risk for sugared sodas as well as diet sodas was approx 8-10% for men and 18-19% for women.  Both decaffeinated as well as regular coffee proved to be better to drink than any soda.  This was correlated with those that drank at least one, yes, only one soda a day.

This isn’t the first study on sodas, proving their health destroying side effects.  Sugared drinks are correlated with excess weight gain and consequently higher cholesterol, blood pressure and incidence of diabetes.  These in addition to  smoking, excess alcohol, and stress are risk factors for stroke.

The problem with sugar sweetened soda is that it is one of the most efficient delivery systems of sugar into our bloodstream, causing a rapid skyrocketing of blood sugar followed by insulin.  A constant assault on our bodies of this process can affect our ability to use insulin, called insulin resistance.  Inflammation follows, which contributes to hardening of the arteries and plaque deposits.

Diet sodas seem to negatively alter certain processes, rendering them haphazard instead of controlled, namely the combination of sugars to protein and lipid molecules.  This out of control situation further inflames and causes free radical damage in the body.

The end results between regular and diet drinks were slightly different: Sugar-sweetened and diet soft drinks were associated with ischemic and  hemorrhagic strokes, respectively.  Ischemic strokes are when a blood clot interrupts blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are uncontrolled bleeding in the brain.

Trading coffee, decaffeinated or not, for sugared and diet soda reduced stroke risk by ~12% and ~10%, respectively.  It seems the natural antioxidants in coffee help reduce inflammation and improve insulin usage.  Skim milk as well as other dairy also improved stroke risk by 11%.

Greater consumption of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas was associated with a significantly higher risk of stroke. This risk may be reduced by substituting alternative beverages for soda. Link to Original article

So, the most popular refreshments, that is soft drinks, either with sugar or sweeteners, raises stroke risk significantly.   Substitution of these drinks with coffee or dairy will improve risk.  Soda drinking should be restricted to special occasions only.  Is this possible for us as a nation?