Every day we learn of new study results that admonish us to consume more (or avoid) foods and beverages to keep us both safe and healthy. Some reports conflict with one another, causing us to become even more confused about our daily dietary decisions.
For a number of years, sugar-sweetened soda had been associated with obesity, diabetes, poorer memory and small overall brain volumes. Over time, sugary soda was no longer the ‘beverage of choice’ for some. It was substituted for a seemingly more palatable option – diet soda, a sugar-free, calorie-free carbonated water with artificial-sweetened versions.
However, a 2013 National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) study revealed that both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages were linked to an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Another study, after adjusting for common factors that contribute to weight gain such as dieting, exercising change or diabetes status, showed that those who drank artificially-sweetened drinks have a 47 percent higher increase in Body Mass Index than those who did not.
A study released in the May journal of Stroke concluded that “artificially-sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia.” It found that those who drank at least one artificially-sweetened drink a day were 2.96 times as likely to have an ischemic stroke and 2.89 times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease. The research, however, emphasized that it did not show causation to these diseases, only a correlation. This study’s takeaway is this: Diet sodas may not necessarily be a healthier alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
Iowa Healthiest State Initiative
I serve as a committee member on the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative (HSI), a statewide program whose mission is “To improve the physical, social and emotional well-being of Iowans.” As the name suggests, the goal of HSI is to ultimately “become the healthiest state in the nation.” Our workgroup is currently assessing many different healthy measurement metrics – including dietary behaviors – that will gauge the progress Iowans make when living active and healthy lifestyles. One key dietary measurement objective that we will likely pursue is decreasing the number of Iowans who consume sugar-sweetened beverages on a daily basis. As with all objectives, the idea is not to have prescriptive “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for Iowans. The goal is to gently nudge behaviors that will encourage positive outcomes for the individual’s physical and emotional well-being.
This most recent study provides yet another reason to temper our thirst for sugar- and artificially-sweetened beverages. Other healthier options to these sugar-sweetened beverages? According to The Nutrition Source from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, drink more water, tea or coffee (with little or no sugar), limit milk and dairy products (1-2 servings/day) and just one small glass of juice each day. Again, these are merely suggestions.
More about the Healthiest State Initiative, version 2.0, in future blogs!
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