Most of us have walked into a store, bought a bottle of soda and enjoyed the refreshing drink. We all know what it can do to our waistline, but are we really aware of what other dangers there are in consuming these drinks? Known side effects of fizzy drinks (and in certain cases even fruit juices that use artificial sweeteners) are: Increased risk of a stroke, obesity, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, liver damage, premature labour in pregnant women, and that is just to name a few.
The most recent research shows that fizzy drinks may even contribute to dementia, and hence Alzheimer’s too. In this study1 by STROKE, they looked at the risk that sugar or artificially sweetened drinks associated with strokes and dementia. They studied 2888 participants. They looked at their fizzy beverage intake by means of a food-frequency questionnaire which they had them complete based on their consumption for different periods of time in their lives.
Of the 81 dementia incidents that they observed, 63 of these cases were consistent with Alzheimer’s disease. They made adjustments to get more accurate results (age, sex, education, and a few other factors); they found that the ones who consumed more artificially-sweetened drinks had a higher risk of developing all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
So now that we have been talking about it for a while, you might be wondering,
“What is Alzheimer’s disease?”
According to the Alzheimer’s association: “Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia,a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.”
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of ageing where some elderly people just forget some things from time to time, although it can start out that way. It is a disease which gets worse over time. There are three stages in Alzheimer’s. The first stage is where the person can still function normally but they start having memory lapses, and start forgetting things like friends, and family.
The second stage gets more intense and this is when the person will need more care. There are normally behavioural changes; they might become aggressive or suspicious. They can start forgetting their own history, moments in their life and other things like trouble controlling their bladder and bowels so many start using adult nappies. They forget where they live and the lose track of time, not remembering the year or what day it is. Many have described this as a grown person, going back to toddler stages, except the fact that they cannot grow out of it.
The third stage, also known as late stage Alzheimer’s is the final stage of the disease. Their brain cannot send their body the right messages, so they struggle to move, they struggle to walk and communicate. The person will need assistance 24/7. Eventually, they won’t be able to swallow. In most cases they end up being tube fed and on life support or pass away because of sickness since they have become more vulnerable to diseases like pneumonia.
Symptoms to look out for:
Challenges in following out simple tasks that you have been used to doing on a daily basis.
- Forgetting names of people close to you, like friends, family, workmates.
- Confusion – if you don’t know where you are or what day it is.
- Losing belongings and not being able to retrace your steps and remember where you were or what you might have done with the object.
- Changes in mood. People who are suffering from Alzheimer’s usually start feeling suspicious of others. They feel out of place with family, at gatherings, at work, or amongst other people. They can get very anxious and depressed and they usually feel very vulnerable and just want to be home.
- For the people who work, their job might become increasingly difficult to them. They might forget how to do certain tasks and fulfil duties that they had always been able to do.
Other suspected causes of the disease.
Ok so we know that fizzy drinks can increase the risk of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s, but what are other factors that might cause, or contribute to a person getting this disease?
- Age – Most people suffering of this disease are over the age of 65. The risk of getting Alzheimer’s after the age of 65 is 1 in nine, and one out of three people over the age of 85 will get Alzheimer’s.
- Family history – If you have a relative, like your mother, father, sister, brother etc. have had this disease, you are more likely to get it, especially if more than one member of your family has had it. This can be genetic, or due to environmental factors.
- Head injury – If you suffered from a head injury, or repeated head injury, or head injury that causes you to become unconscious, then there is a chance that it can cause brain damage which could then contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.
- Down syndrome- It is not clear why, but normally people who suffer from Down syndrome get Alzheimer’s when they are between the ages of 30 and 40.
Lifestyle tips to prevent getting Alzheimer’s:
Eat healthily. A healthy body helps our brain to be healthy. Stay away from fizzy drinks, and any foods and drinks that have artificial colorants, artificial sweeteners and also preservatives. Try to maintain a healthy diet including a lot of fresh green vegetables. Organic food is best since no pesticides have been used on these foods, and also no hormones are used.
A healthy heart. Some conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are linked with heart disease. What is interesting is that some autopsy results show that as 80% of people that suffer from Alzheimer’s, also suffer from cardiovascular disease. Eat a balanced diet and exercise and you might reduce your chances.
Dietary tips to prevent memory loss
- Cut down on sugar. Sugary foods and carbs found in whole white flour, pasta, rice and such products can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels which may in turn cause inflammation on the brain.
- Get plenty of Omega 3 fats in. These fats are shown to reduce beta-amyloid plaques in our bodies, which in turn can help reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s. You can take a fish oil supplement for this but you can also get a lot of Omega 3 from natural sources like tuna, salmon, sardines.
- Eat your veggies! Berries and leafy greens, as well as avocado and broccoli help by giving us protective antioxidants and vitamins which our bodies and brains need to thrive and in turn help prevent memory loss.
- Avoid take-out. We all know how tempting it is to go and get a quick meal after a long day at work but it is not always the right choice. By cooking at home you can ensure that you are using quality, healthy ingredients and you also know how much sugar and salt goes into your food.
- Folate – this is found in black eyed peas, lentils, and spinach. Folate has been shown2 to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and improve brain function.
- Vitamin E – Natural sources of Vitamin E are almonds, spinach, sweet potato and avocado to just name a few.
Alzheimer’s is real and anybody can get it. Even though we cannot control our family history or choose our genes, we can control what we take into our bodies and what effect it will have on our brain – in turn helping to protect us from Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Fizzy drinks have been linked to various diseases; Alzheimer’s is the latest discovery.
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