Sodas Linked to Stroke in Women and Diabetes in Men

sugary sodas and disease

Photo by Tiberius Dinu

Researchers from the Graduate School of Medicine of Japan’s Osaka University have determined that stroke, and specifically ischemic stroke is linked to increased amount of soft drink consumption among women. Other research has found that men have an increased risk of diabetes resulting from drinking soda.

The researchers studied 39,786 men and women from Japan who were between 40 and 59 years old. They followed the subjects for 18 years. After eliminating other potential associations, the researchers found that among those women who drank soft drinks nearly every day had a 83% higher incidence of ischemic stroke and 21% increased incidence of all types of strokes.

An ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blockage to one of the main arteries to the brain. Over 85% of all strokes are ischemic.

The researchers did not find this association among the men of the study. But the correlation among women was so strong that the researchers concluded that, “soft drink intake is associated with higher risk of ischemic stroke for women.”

The research began in 1990 and the subjects were followed up through 2008.

The connection between sodas and higher stroke risk in women was also found by researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, who found – in a study of 84,085 women – that women who drank more than one serving of soda per day were 16% more likely to have any type of stroke than those who drank little or no soda. This increased incidence was the same among those women who drank sodas sweetened with sugar (including high fructose corn syrup) and those who drank diet sodas. The women in this study were followed for 22 years, from 1986 through 2008.

This 16% increase in all types of stroke correlates to the 21% increase in all types of stroke in the Japanese study. The Cleveland Clinic study did not isolate ischemic stroke, however.

The results appear to point out not just the damaging effects of refined sweeteners upon the cardiovascular system, but also the damaging effects of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharine. Indeed, some of these chemicals appear to add other dimensions of risk.

Men, it seems, respond differently to increased soda consumption. In a study from Harvard University published in 2011, 40,389 healthy men were followed over a period of 20 years. After adjusting for other possible causes, the researchers found that men who drank the most sugar-sweetened soda were 26% more likely to have contracted type 2 diabetes during that 20-year period.

Those age-adjusted men who drank more sodas with artificial sweeteners had over a 90% increased incidence of type 2 diabetes than those who drank the least amount. But when the other adjustments were made, the artificial sweetener-consuming men only had a 9% increase in type 2 diabetes. Those other adjustments included body mass index and dieting. This indicates that both sugar-sweetened sodas and artificially sweetened sodas increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in men, though sugar-sweetened sodas appear to have a more significant association.

And while one might assume that artificially sweetened sodas might reduce risk of disease, this was not indicated in a 2009 study from the University of Texas. Here researchers found that diet soda increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 67% and increased metabolic syndrome (which includes cardiovascular disease) by 36%.

From these conclusive human studies it appears that men and women metabolize sugar differently, and thus tend to have different long term disease responses. Increased refined sugar consumption affects insulin response and insulin sensitivity (and thus glucose resistance) among the cells. This can create long term changes in the way the body manages glucose, produces and utilizes insulin, and stores fat – because unused glucose will become converted to fat cells when not used for energy.

The relationship between sugar-sweetened sodas and obesity has also been proven among various studies over the past decade. This has expanded the relationship between refined sugar and the metabolic diseases of heart disease and diabetes.

One of the relationships pointed out by the Harvard researchers was that the caramel color in cola also produces increased glycation end products, which has been linked to insulin resistance. The research found that the men tended to drink cola sodas.

The bottom line is that sodas, which are rich in refined sugars or chemical artificial sweeteners, along with glycation end products and numerous other additives, involve a certain and undeniable increased risk to both men and women, albeit in slightly different ways.

Choose your poison? How about: choose your disease.

Written by Case Adams, Naturopath


Eshak ES, Iso H, Kokubo Y, Saito I, Yamagishi K, Inoue M, Tsugane S. Soft drink intake in relation to incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and stroke subtypes in Japanese men and women: the Japan Public Health Centre-based study cohort I. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1390-7.

Bernstein AM, de Koning L, Flint AJ, Rexrode KM, Willett WC. Soda consumption and the risk of stroke in men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;95(5):1190-9.

de Koning L, Malik VS, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverage consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;93(6):1321-7.

Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR Jr. Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care. 2009 Apr; 32(4):688-94.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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