Soda and Stroke Risk

Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption has increased in the United States over the past three decades, and its impact on our health has risen in response. Past research has linked regular consumption with weight gain and diabetes, along with high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Now a study has found another unfavorable link: consumption of soda appears to increase the risk of stroke.

The research correlated soda consumption along with the occurrence of stroke in a total sampling of 127,456 individuals—consisting of 43,371 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study between 1986 and 2008 and 84,085 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2008. During that time a total of 2,938 strokes were documented in women while 1,416 strokes were documented in men.

In a direct comparison with one serving of soda—interestingly, this was the case with both regular and diet soda—one serving of decaffeinated coffee was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke, while regular coffee was associated with a 9 percent decrease in risk.

It is unclear precisely why diet soda might pose any such risk, and some researchers are of the opinion that this is a coincidental relationship branching off from some deeper cause. In the case of sweetened soda, it is well-known that excess sugar load can lead to rapid increases in blood glucose and insulin. Over time, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and inflammation result. These physiologic changes influence atherosclerosis, the accumulation of arterial plaque and coronary thrombosis — all of which are risk factors for stroke.

In comparison, coffee contains chlorogenic acids, lignans and magnesium, all of which act as antioxidants. These unique compounds are known to be anti-inflammatory, which correspondingly  may help to reduce stroke risk.

“Soda remains the largest source of added sugar in the diet,” said Adam Bernstein, MD, ScD, study author and Research Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “What we’re beginning to understand is that regular intake of these beverages sets off a chain reaction in the body that can potentially lead to many diseases — including stroke.”

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