Beverages Impact Brain Functioning and Contribute to Dementia

A study recently published in both Alzheimer’s & Dementia and Stroke determined drinking sugary drinks regularly may lead to a reduction in the size of the brain and poorer memory.

Consuming high levels of sugar is known to have a harmful impact on health, causing a range of adverse effects on the body, including metabolic dysfunction, liver damage and high blood pressure. Many people incorrectly believe diet soft drinks are a healthier alternative to sugary drinks, but they are also associated with an increase in metabolic and cardiovascular risk effects that can increase the risk of cerebrovascular disease and dementia.

Data collected from around 4,000 people aged 30 years or older who participated in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) have been analyzed to investigate how the intake of sweet drinks impacts brain volume, cognitive function and memory. Almost 3,000 people aged over 45 years were subsequently monitored for the development of stroke, and nearly 1,500 people who were 60 years old or more were assessed for signs of dementia.

Sugar Reduces Brain Volume

The results showed that people who frequently drink sugary beverages, such as sodas and fruit juices are more likely to have poorer memory and a smaller brain size. In particular, part of the brain import for memory, the hippocampal area was reduced by excessive consumption of sugary drinks.

In addition, it was found that the risk of developing stroke and dementia was three times higher among people who drank diet soda daily than among those who did not drink diet soda.

Dr Matthew Pase, paper’s author and fellow in the Department of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, explained:

“Our findings indicate an association between higher sugary beverage intake and brain atrophy, including lower brain volume and poorer memory…We also found that people drinking diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia. This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia.”

Diabetes and Dementia Link

The differences between patients who did and did not drink sugary or diet beverages could not be entirely explained by pre-existing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. People who frequently consumed diet soda were more likely to have diabetes, which may increase the risk of dementia, but even when people with diabetes were excluded from the analysis diet soda consumption was still associated with an increased risk of developing dementia.