More than 55 million people worldwide live with dementia and this number is expected to double every twenty years. Demographic aging is at the root of this proliferation. However, aging is not a cause of dementia but a risk factor and this distinction is important because it opens up the possibility of action.
Research continues to shed light on possible ways to prevent brain decline.
Some surprising risk associations have been identified over the years, including artificially sweetened beverages – low-calorie or zero-calorie drinks used as an alternative to the sugary variety.
That’s the suggestion of a 2017 study published in the journal Stroke.
The researchers analyzed the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort, which began in 1971 and followed a group of people throughout their lives with check-ups every four years.
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As the doctor explained, “It can be difficult to disentangle the impact of drinking lots of artificially sweetened beverages from other factors that may affect dementia risk, and we don’t yet know to what extent our choice drinking can affect the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s”.
Nevertheless, “fizzy drinks, soft drinks, juices and adding excessive amounts of sugar to hot drinks have also been associated with an increased risk of dementia in some studies due to the effect of sugar on the increase our likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” she says.
What the NHS says about artificially sweetened drinks
“Food manufacturers claim that sweeteners help prevent tooth decay, control blood sugar and reduce our caloric intake.”
According to the health body, EFSA has approved health claims for xylitol, sorbitol and sucralose, among others, in relation to oral health and blood sugar control.
Speaking to the NHS, dietitian Emma Carder said: “Research on sweeteners shows they are perfectly safe to eat or drink daily as part of a healthy diet.”
She also said they are a very useful alternative for people with diabetes who need to monitor their blood sugar while still enjoying their favorite foods.
Further research on the link to dementia is therefore needed before any conclusions can be drawn. In the meantime, watch your sugar intake, advises the NHS.
“If you take sugar in tea or coffee, gradually reduce the amount until you can eliminate it completely, or try switching to sweeteners instead.”