Bad news cola lovers: Soda isn't the healthiest thirst-quencher in the cooler. In fact, everydayhealth.com reports health risks surrounding sugary drinks are increasingly well-documented. Rates of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are higher among people who sip them regularly.
In one strange case, experts suspect cola overload may have helped to kill a 30-year-old New Zealand woman who died of a heart attack in February 2010. Natasha Harris reportedly drank 8 to 10 liters of cola per day, according to the Associated Press. In addition to all the soda, however, the mother of eight smoked about 30 cigarettes a day and ate little, the AP reports.
Even if your soda habits aren't that extreme, you may want to pay attention to new information from Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and Harvard University researchers, who found that the more sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas a person consumes, the higher her or his stroke risk. This isn't the first research linking soda and stroke. A February 2011 study of older adults living in Manhattan found a greater risk of stroke, heart attack, and vascular-related death among those who regularly drank diet soda. The new Harvard-Cleveland Clinic study, however, examined the effects of both regular and low-calorie varieties on stroke risk.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers looked at soda consumption among more than 43,371 men and 84,085 women. The men took part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study between 1986 and 2008, while the women's data came from the Nurses' Health Study between 1980 and 2008. A total 2,938 strokes were recorded among the women and 1,416 strokes among the men. The Health Professionals and Nurses' Health studies are conducted by a consortium of institutions including Harvard and Brigham and Women's in Boston.
Sugar overload, the researchers hypothesize, may trigger to a series of reactions in the body that can cause atherosclerosis, plaque stability and thrombosis, according to a Mayo Clinic release. All three are ischemic stroke risk factors. And it's a bigger problem for women, whose risk is higher, than men.
Too Much of a Bad Thing
Harris' case was unusual, but the researchers from Harvard and Cleveland Clinic did find a comparable pattern among heavy soda-drinkers in their study. It seems people who drink soda more often are more prone to making additional unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as working out less and eating more red meat and full-fat dairy.
If all that doesn't convince you to put a cap on soda and start drinking more water, a recent study found students who brought water into exams scored higher than those who didn't, suggesting a little H2O might actually make you smarter. Now that sounds like a reason to hit the water cooler.