Figure 1. Artificially sweetened drinks are connected to a greater risk for stroke and dementia.

Sugary Drinks vs. Healthy Brains

By Taylor Ha ’18

Figure 1. Artificially sweetened drinks are connected to a greater risk for stroke and dementia.

Many American consumers regularly indulge in hundreds of sugar- and artificially- sweetened name brand drinks: Coke, Sprite, Fanta soda, and Hawaiian punch, to name a few. However, routine consumption of such drinks is associated with cardiometabolic diseases, which can amplify stroke and dementia risk. And according to new research published on April 20, 2017, avid soda, fruit juice, and overall sweet drink consumers may someday pay a severe health penalty for their sugary drinking habits.

Based on information from the Framingham Heart Study, Dr. Matthew P. Pase of Boston University’s Department of Neurology and his colleagues investigated whether these drinks were associated with the 10-year risks of incident stroke and dementia. They assessed 2,888 people aged over 45 years for incident stroke and 1,484 people aged over 60 years for incident dementia. Each participant took food-frequency questionnaires, which measured beverage intake, at three examination cycles – 1991-1995, 1995-1998, and 1998-2001. The questionnaire, which measured dietary intake over the past year, asked participants how often they typically consumed one glass, bottle, or can of each listed sweet drink across the previous year. The researchers then averaged questionnaire results and adjusted measurements for factors like age, sex, caloric intake, and smoking.

Finally, Pase’s team found that higher recent and higher cumulative consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks increased risk for ischemic stroke – strokes triggered by blockages, like a blood clot – all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia. People who drank at least one can of a diet-drink per day were found to be 2.96 times more likely to have an ischemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, versus those who only drank them less than once a week. Sugar-sweetened beverages, on the other hand, were not associated with stroke or dementia. However, more studies that link artificially sweetened drinks with increased risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s must be conducted to strengthen the observed correlation.



  1. M.P. Pase, et al., Sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages and the risks of incident stroke and dementia: a prospective cohort study. Stroke 48, (2017). doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.016027.
  2. Image retrieved from:

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