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Artificially-sweetened drinks associated with greater dementia risk

Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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More than 55 million people worldwide are living with dementia and this number is set to double every 20 years – a startling prediction. However, your risk of the mind-robbing condition might be modifiable, according to research. While a healthy diet could lower the likelihood of dementia, other dietary choices might not be so kind.

Whether you use them as a mixer or enjoy them on their own, you probably have a favourite soft drink.

As these go-to drinks are usually very rich in sugar, companies switched up their successful recipes and started using artificial sweeteners.

Diet and light drinks have now become a massive industry, with all leading brands offering a sugar-free option.

However, research suggests that artificial sweeteners could actually increase your risk of dementia.

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Published in the journal Stroke, the study looked at the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort, which followed a group of people throughout their lives.

The research team was keen to understand how the consumption of sugary and artificially-sweetened drinks impacted the risk of stroke and dementia.

To collect the data, the study subjects had to complete questionnaires detailing their food and drink intake.

This data included information on how frequently they consumed one glass, bottle or can of each beverage over the course of a year.

The questionnaire included three types of sugar-sweetened drinks, four types of fruit juice, one type of non-carbonated sugar-sweetened fruit drink and three types of artificially-sweetened soft drink.

During the follow-up period, 81 participants went on to develop the mind-robbing condition.

The study found that those who drank at least one artificially-sweetened drink a day were 2.9 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the significant effect on dementia risk wasn’t observed when the researchers adjusted for other factors like diabetes, for example.

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Dr Stacey Lockyer, Nutrition Scientist from British Nutrition Foundation shared that research into artificial sweeteners and dementia is not so black and white.

Dr Lockyer said: “There are a small number of observational studies examining a potential link between consumption of non-sugar sweeteners and dementia and these have reported conflicting findings (i.e. some showing an association and some showing no association). 

“While data from observational studies can suggest associations between dietary factors and health outcomes, they have several limitations and importantly cannot demonstrate cause and effect. 

“Sweeteners that are permitted for use in food products are rigorously tested for safety and some people find it useful to reduce their sugar and calorie intake by consuming foods and drinks made with sweeteners in place of sugar.”

The expert also explained that the artificial products are also clearly labelled on the drinks you purchase at the store, which means that the choice to drink them is entirely yours.

Furthermore, if you want to cut back on drinks, Dr Lockyer recommended alcohol.

This drink has been linked to a greater risk of dementia in various studies.

Other lifestyle changes that can help reduce the likelihood of the brain condition include exercise, healthy diet, staying socially active and quitting smoking.

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