Drink This and Risk Stroke

Drink This and Risk Stroke post image

In a recently published article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers concluded that daily consumption of diet soft drinks is associated with an increased risk for vascular events like stroke. The investigators cite the need for further research before drawing any conclusions about diet soft drink consumption. Personally, I don’t need, and have never needed any research to convince me to NEVER drink any soda, especially diet sodas. However, I have some dear friends who still persist in drinking these dangerous drinks and I hope to share this with them.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Columbia University Medical Center examined the soda drinking habits of 2,564 people who participated in the Northern Manhattan Study over a 10-year period.

Diet soda drinkers found to have a 43 % higher risk of having a vascular event

The researchers found that people who reported drinking diet soda on a daily basis had a 43 percent higher risk of having a vascular event than people who didn’t drink any soda, even after controlling for metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, cardiac disease, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. People who drank regular soda didn’t have the increased risk.

Study researcher Hannah Gardener ScD, an epidemiologist from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, previously presented these findings at the International Stroke Conference of 2011.

Artificial sweeteners found to be addictive

Government surveys have found that people who drink diet beverages average more than 26 ounces per day. That’s more than four 8 ounce cans of soda a day and some drink far more. They also found that 3% of diet soda drinkers have at least four cans daily.

Is it the caffeine that is so compelling? That doesn’t explain it, because many diet soda drinkers prefer the caffeine-free varieties.

Experts say that the rituals around diet soda and the artificial sweeteners it contains can make some people psychologically — and even physically — dependent on it in ways that mimic more serious addictions. Because immediate weight gain is not experienced, it allows drinkers to continue drinking without apparent consequence.

Research suggests that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda (such as aspartame, saccharin, Splenda, etc.) may prompt people to drink cup after cup, because these fake sugars don’t satisfy like the real thing.

In a 2008 study involving human taste pathways in the brain, women who drank water that was alternately sweetened with sugar and Splenda couldn’t tell the difference — but their brains could. Functional MRI brain scans revealed that even though both drinks lit up the brain’s reward system, the sugar did so more completely.

Artificial sweeteners may spur drinkers — or their brains — to keep chasing a “high” that diet soda keeps just out of reach. It’s not clear that this teasing effect can lead to dependence, but it’s a possibility. Dr. Martin P. Paulus, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, and one of the authors of the study said,

Artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects — meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol, and even drugs of abuse…Whenever you have that, there is a potential that a subgroup of people… will have a chance of getting addicted.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a key sign of dependence is when a person continues to use a substance even when he or she knows it’s causing physical or mental health problems.

Diet soda has been linked to osteoporosis (the phosphoric acid in soda — both diet and regular — leaches calcium from bones, which can make osteoporosis worse.) Additionally, habitual diet soda consumption has been linked to type 2 diabetes, weight gain and now stroke.

Another distinguishing feature of substance dependence — whether it’s to caffeine, nicotine, or hard drugs like heroin — is the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur if a person tries to quit cold turkey. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint whether aspartame or other artificial sweeteners, caffeine, or some combination of ingredients is responsible, people who cut back on diet soda report symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and irritability.

Scientific evidence shows that people who have an addictive personality are also susceptible to sugary foods.

A report published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in June, 2010 illustrated that many studies have shown that a high number of alcohol-dependent and other drug-dependent individuals have a sweet preference, especially for foods with a high sucrose concentration (refined white sugar).

Human and animal studies have shown that in some brains, the consumption of sugar-rich foods or drinks precipitates the release of euphoric endorphins and dopamine (the feel good chemicals) within the nucleus accumbens, in a manner similar to the response to some recreational drugs. Scientists have found that the brain pathways of drug and sugar addiction involve similar neural receptors and neurotransmitters. Using functional MRI of the brain, there has been visual documentation of craving, tolerance, withdrawal and sensitization in specific areas in the brain.

Furthermore, there appears to be cross sensitization between sugar addiction and narcotic dependence in some individuals. In the last two decades research has noted that specific genes may underlie the sweet preference in alcohol- and drug-dependent individuals, as well as in biological children of paternal alcoholics.

While the urge to consume food or drinks with artificial sweeteners may be part of a cycle of addiction, the ultimate satisfaction is elusive, because it is not the real thing and this leads the person to crave more.

Weight gain from artificial sweeteners

A Purdue University study published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience in 2008, reported that rats on diets containing the artificial sweetener saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food. Researchers Swithers, and Davidson

… found that reducing the correlation between sweet taste and the caloric content of foods using artificial sweeteners in rats resulted in increased caloric intake, increased body weight, and increased adiposity, as well as diminished caloric compensation and blunted thermic responses to sweet-tasting diets. These results suggest that consumption of products containing artificial sweeteners may lead to increased body weight and obesity by interfering with fundamental homeostatic, physiological processes.

Clearly, artificial sweeteners may alter a person’s metabolism. According to a consumer survey from the Calorie Control Council, a nonprofit association that represents the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry (yikes!), 59% of the American population consumes diet soft drinks. That makes them the second most popular low-calorie, sugar-free products in the nation. Because so many foods today contain artificial sweeteners, the study results may go beyond diet drinks.

A Healthy Alternative

For the person who truly wants to kick the diet soda habit, please do not switch to regular soda! Regular soda is, of course, terrible and full of high fructose corn syrup (among other very toxic ingredients) which is possibly even worse than artificial sweeteners.

There are other healthy alternatives. Since habitual drinking of diet sodas clearly indicates addiction and craving for sweets, the issue of imbalanced gut flora may be an underlying factor.

There are many delicious probiotic beverages that actually add value and nutrition rather that deplete and injure. These are kefir, kombucha and kvass. Water kefir is a fantastic alternative to soda as it is carbonated and tart but still has a little a slight sweetness in it. These beverages can be made at home or may be purchased.

Last month we completed my Probiotic Food Challenge and I set up the Probiotic Food Linky. There are many great recipes and easy instructions for making these incredibly powerful superfoods. It behooves you to make some changes and incorporate these dynamic foods in to your life.

Why be addicted to an artificial drink that will leach the minerals from your bones, usher you into diabetes and cardiovascular disease and potentially cause a stroke? Not to mention that it is bottled in plastic BPA laden containers, the health consequences of which no one yet knows.

How to make some probiotic drinks at home:

A note about the photo: I think it is quite ironic for Diet Coke to have a campaign for women’s heart health in light of the recent research associating diet soda and stroke.

Photo credit

This post is shared at:  Sustainable Ways, Healthy 2Day, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Mommy Club, Creative Juice Thursday, Thriving On Thursday, Full Plate Thuraday, Tastastic, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food, Sunday School, Seasonal Celebration, Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Barnyard Hop, Real Food 101, Mouthwatering monday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday Naptime, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Tasty Tuesday Tidbits, Tasty Tuesday 33

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Leave a Comment

  • AmandaLP February 15, 2012, 12:09 am

    I detoxed off diet sodas just last week. I had a two day migraine, nausea, and my partner said I was irritable. I stayed with coffee, to not get the caffeine headache, and it still happened.

    My next traditional foods purchase will be water kefir grains! 🙂

  • Stealthy Mom February 15, 2012, 12:27 am

    Aspartame gives me headaches, pure and simple, so no diet pop here! It amazes me how so many health professionals push the stuff. My family doctor walks around with Diet Mt Dew and our dentist gives sugar-free treats to kids.

  • hanna February 15, 2012, 3:59 am

    Im lucky when it comes to artifical sugars, i feel sick within half hr of ingesting them. my younger sister throws up straight away. it is disappointing when i bring home a brand that i have bought it for so long only to taste (and i can taste the difference between artifical sugars and normal, maybe part of the intolrance or alleragy?) the artifical sugars.

  • June February 16, 2012, 5:49 pm

    Stress kills the most – A good attitude is the best prevention against getting sick – Genetics – and Moderation!
    Found a great soda called Zevia at whole foods –
    And definitely a good belly laugh every day!

    • Jill February 16, 2012, 7:02 pm

      Hi June,
      Why not make your own probiotic drinks — much healthier than any “soda” you can find at Whole Foods!

  • Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy February 17, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Wow, I always stayed away from diet soda (and regular soda, for that matter) like the plague, but it’s even more dangerous than I thought. I wouldn’t have associated it with stroke. Thanks for sharing at Healthy 2Day Wednesday, and don’t forget to come back next week and see if you were featured!

  • Leslie @ Real Food Freaks February 18, 2012, 2:58 pm

    Scary stuff! Even scarier that some people drink so much of this “poison in a can.”

  • Jen February 18, 2012, 5:04 pm

    MUST MAKE MY HUSBAND READ THIS! I keep nagging him to stop the diet coke, but it is not working. I keep finding stashes hidden. . . yeah I should probably stop nagging as he is a grown man, but is it 100% addictive yet he denies that he’s addicted.

    I’ve tried the probiotic drinks (except haven;t tried Kombucha yet), he hates them all. He won’t even eat regular sugar anymore. It has to be spenda . . . ahhh, I have my hands full.

    • Jill February 18, 2012, 5:36 pm

      Hi Jen,
      One of my readers mentioned a soda called Zevia available at Whole Foods. It sounds like it may have stevia in it — so that is better than diet soda. Maybe he would like that one!

  • Crystal & Co February 18, 2012, 5:59 pm

    Pinning and sharing on Facebook. Excellent information.
    My husband has always believed artificial sweeteners are toxic and like poison.

  • Carrie- young living oil lady February 20, 2012, 8:21 am

    I LOVED your post! I have recently written articles on “drinking water or…?” as well as an article on “aspartame.” I thank you SO much for sharing this truth with your readers! It definitely needs to go viral and I support your efforts. I would love for you to check out my articles.. maybe between yours and mine, we can make a difference in people’s lives!
    I am so glad I found your blog and this article!!! 🙂 Will share it! 🙂

    • Jill February 20, 2012, 10:15 am

      Hi Carrie,
      Thanks so much for your kind words. Your aspartame articles is really good!

  • Meagan February 22, 2012, 4:07 am

    I worked for quite a few years in the restaurant business as a server and was shocked at how many people consumed Diet Coke. It was at least 75% of my drink sales. Not to mention the amount that was swilled down at dinner. I had a man that would drink at least 3 at dinner. The worst part about that job was serving it to young toddlers… I wanted to refuse, but couldn’t. =( I cannot fathom giving my child diet soda at such a young age, let alone at ALL.

  • Anita February 22, 2012, 9:05 am

    This is a great post – thank you for sharing this important information!

  • Crystal February 22, 2012, 4:47 pm

    Congrats on being the #2 most clicked link the past week on Mommy Solutions. I am giving your post a pin on Pinterest, you are featured on my Facebook and with this week’s new link up! I hope you stop in and link up something new this week!

    Have a great day!, Crystal

  • April @ The 21st Century Housewife February 24, 2012, 2:05 pm

    This is a very interesting article. Thank you for sharing it with us at the Hearth and Soul hop.

  • Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network February 25, 2012, 9:15 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us on Natural Mothers Network, what a wealth of information and so carefully researched. I for one am not going to touch a diet soda again unless there is no alternative. I am really looking forward to the Seasonal Celebration Linky Party #5 going live tomorrow morning and hope you’ll pop over sometime-you’re always so welcome!
    http://naturalmothersnetwork.com/category/seasonal-celebration-sunday/ Have a great weekend!
    Rebecca x

  • Susan with Permanent Posies February 26, 2012, 11:55 pm

    Wow! Great info. You are raining on my Diet Coke parade. Sometimes I don’t even want to read your posts. I sort of squint and say…..Ok….hit me with it. I do all the wrong things. I am definitely a Diet Coke addict, though I don’t drink one daily. I also am overweight. Hmmmmmmm…..

  • Jupiter Jim April 24, 2012, 2:28 am

    I also like the kambucha for a healthy, probiotic alternative. High-Fructose corn syrup soft drinks like Coca-Cola gives me a sore throat. Very scary that a drink can do that. If you absolutely, positively MUST drink soda or coke, there is some that you can find (right now at Home Depot) that is made from real sugar and comes in the old style coke bottles so you don’t get the nasty plastic chemicals leaching into the drink as an added bonus. Whenever I am at a picnic or a party and I’m in charge of handing out drinks from the cooler, I always remember to ask people that ask me for a soft-drink: “Did you want cancer-free or sugar free?”

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Jill April 24, 2012, 6:38 am

      Hi Jim,
      “cancer-free or sugar-free” — I like that!