A Soda for Your Thoughts?

Everyone knows that sucking down too much soda contributes to a growing waistline. But did you know that studies also suggest that it may contribute to your mental decline?

High sugar beverages are well-established risk factors for developing obesity and type II diabetes. There is also a link between type II diabetes and risk of Alzheimer’s disease that we don’t yet fully understand.

Sugar Not So Sweet for Your Brain

A new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry asked whether high sugar drinks could actually precipitate Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers used a mouse model that has gene mutations found in certain human cases of Alzheimer’s disease. This leaves the mice highly susceptible to developing dementia.

Researchers used these mice to see if those given water spiked with sugar (similar to the amount in soda pop) would develop Alzheimer’s faster than the mice give water alone – and the answer was yes.

First, the mice drinking the sugar water developed signs of type II diabetes. They gained more weight, had increased cholesterol and developed insulin resistance.

Second, the sugar-water drinkers showed increased signs of dementia, with less ability to learn and remember things; and more physical brain changes associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s impossible to say whether the increase in Alzheimer’s dementia in the sugar-water drinking mice was directly due to the beverage or an overall increase in calories, since the sugar drinkers also took in about 15% more calories than the control mice. In any case, the study underscores the overall relationship between poor nutrient intake and risk for Alzheimer’s.

In fact, studies I have summarized in a previous article show that high sugar meals increase markers of oxidative stress as well, which also link to increasing risk of Alzheimer’s.

Yes, it’s true that the mice in this study were already predisposed to Alzheimer’s and the sugar drink just made them get it faster. It would be interesting to know if normal mice would also show cognitive decline with this treatment.

How Much Risk are You Comfortable With?

We should still heed the message, especially if you have Alzheimer’s disease in your family and may carry any predispositions already.

It all comes down to risk. Almost everything you choose to put in your mouth affects your risk of developing disease, for better or for worse. Some things reduce your risk, other things increase it.

The question is, how much risk are you comfortable with? If someone told me that giving up something I really enjoy reduces my risk by a few percent, I’d probably say it’s not worth it. On the other hand, if my risk were reduced by 2, 3 or 10 times I’d consider it seriously.

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough data to put a number on many of the lifestyle choices we make. But some things are just so easy to do that why not do them? Drinking excess soda pop should fall into that category. The craving for sweet beverages is a habit and can be reversed and eliminated in a short time.

The data are clear that high sugar beverages increase risk for many diseases. If you are a heavy soda drinker making this one change could make a significant difference for the future of your brain and your body.

Copyright (c) 2007 BrainFit For Life