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Fewer Calories=More Strokes?

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Diet and exercise are the two key recommendations from most doctors and even on the package inserts of most medications for blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and a number of other conditions.  And this may not be for just your older loved ones for whom you may be a caregiver; most people at least pay lip service to lowering their caloric intake.  So, it seems reasonable that a lot of folks may shift to a low calorie or diet soft drink to reduce caloric intake and maybe even lose some weight. 

Not so fast!  In a study published April 20 in the journal Stroke researchers found that people who drank an average of one low calories soft drink daily had a three times greater risk of stroke than those who drank no low cal drinks over a ten year period.  So, what do we make of it?  The researchers suggest caution in drinking too many soft drinks in general.  But the study did not establish cause and effect.  It could be, they suggest, simply a matter of people who were at risk for stroke or vascular dementia owing to their weight were encouraged to lay off the sugary drinks.  We just cannot be sure.

In other research, intake of sugary drinks was associated with dementia risk…Alzheimer’s dementia, not necessarily vascular dementia.  Both studies failed to adjust for other variables like age, gender and weight, and neither of them was a controlled experience in which people could be randomized to two different groups – one drinking sugary drinks and one drinking diet drinks.  The ethics of that kind of research are a bit thin anyway.

While both studies recommend further research, they both also recommend that a return to water as a drink of preference is a good idea.  But there are other data as well…from rats.  Researchers found that if they divided rats into two groups who received exactly the same diet, but one group was also given artificial sweeteners, that group gained more weight.  Evidently, the brain can be fooled by the artificial sweeteners in some way.

The data would suggest to a prudent person, that maybe sweetened and unsweetened drinks have enough questions that erring toward the water option would be a good idea.  As with any of these questions, you should consult with your physician before making any radical changes in your diet.

            Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to info@creativecaremanagement.com.

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