Everyone enjoys a nice, refreshing soda once in a while. Fizzy and sweet, packed with ice and maybe a slice of lemon or lime, on a boiling hot day, there’s nothing else quite like it. The unfortunate thing, however, is that whether you’re talking about lemonades, colas, or even ginger beer, we’re always hearing about the negative sides of sodas. If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, it can be pretty dispiriting to constantly hear about dental cavities, tooth decay and Type-2 diabetes; health risks often brought on by overindulging in sodas.
Of course, there’s the fact that every can of soda contains a huge amount of sugar. Reading the nutritional information on the back of a two-litre bottle is a pretty sobering experience; it’s enough to make you think about giving them up for good, and that’s not even factoring alcohol into the equation, if you like spirit mixers.
For years, soda companies, worried about the backlash from nutritionists, have held a trump card in their deck; namely, the inclusion of no-added-sugar versions of their most popular beverages – the diet variety. I’ve always thought found diet sodas were pretty dumb; sure, there might be no sugar added during the manufacturing process, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a heck of a lot of it in the process to begin with.
Still, none of my friends listened to me, and a few of them would even freak out if you forgot to get them diet – as if it made that much of a difference anyway. If you’re the sort of person, however, who will only consume diet sodas, then I have some bad news for you: a recent scientific study claims to have proven that not only are diet sodas just as unhealthy as the regular kind, but they’re actually worse for you in the long term.
According to research conducted by a team of scientists from Boston University, drinking one diet drink a day puts the average American adult at three times as much risk of suffering a stroke or from some form of dementia later in life. The study was published in the American Heart Association’s official medical journal, which is called Stroke.
Researchers took a sample of 4,372 adults over the age of 45. Participants were then asked to fill out detailed questionnaires on the subject of food and drink intake in the 1990s, which were then tracked for 10 years. Subsequent results suggested that those adults who at least one diet soda a day were approximately three times more likely to develop dementia or suffer a stroke.
The man responsible for the study, one Matthew Pase (a senior fellow in Boston University’s Department of Neurology), claims that his data shows correlation without causation, but did admit: “We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages. In our study, 3 percent of the people had a new stroke and 5 percent developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia.”
Other nutritionists have been sceptical about Pase’s findings. Dr Cam Patterson, a cardiologist at the University of North Carolina, stated in response to the study: “People need to know about this, but it is important for everyone to realize that no general guidelines should be derived from these types of observational studies… I’ll continue to pack a diet soda with my lunch, but I’ll look more carefully at what else is in my lunch box, and I’ll pay more attention to what I’m doing while I’m drinking my diet soda.”
For an example of a seriously unhealthy intake, read about the woman who made the insane decision to drink a glass of baking soda every day for a month.