Americans consumed nearly 11 million metric tons of sugar in 2016, a lot of that was due to the consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas. Scientists have been looking into the impacts of sugar on the human system for a while now, but in a recent study scientists asked a different but very important question: How do soft drinks impact the brain? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.
The average American citizen will consume about 44 gallons of soda every year. All these sweetened drinks add up to about 170 liters per person. For a long time now scientists have been looking at the health impacts that sodas have on our teeth, muscles, organs, and bodily functions. However, this study’s focus was on sugar’s impact on the brain. This research showed scientists that people who frequently consume excessive amounts of sugar also had poorer memories, an overall smaller brain volume, and a shrunken hippocampus, which is the memory and learned experiences part of the brain.
These negative health impacts are a result of regular sodas and sweetened beverage consumption, but even diet sodas have big negative impacts too. A follow up study was conducted showing that people who drink diet sodas daily are three times as likely to experience a stroke or develop dementia when compared to people who don’t these diet soft drinks.
Both tests, on regular soda and diet soft drinks, were long term studies spanning over a decade and observing thousands of subjects. Researchers saw that people who are drinking two or more sugary soft drinks a day or those that have three sodas a week showed risk factors of early stage Alzheimer’s disease. This is highly alarming considering the fact that Americans drink more soda than any other place on Earth.
They took smoking, diet, and other factors into account, but could not completely control preexisting conditions like diabetes, which many of their subjects developed over the course of this study. Diabetes also impacts the brain, so while this study shows a strong correlation, there is still more research needed to see how much of the brain is impacted by the sugars alone.
For now more research is still needed to identify exactly which sugars and sweeteners are involved in these alarming health impacts and this will also help further specify the cause and effects happening here. But these studies are showing scientists some very hard consequences to these soft drink.