SPOTLIGHT: Q&A with Dr. Pase
Stroke Progress and Innovation Awards 2017
Matthew P. Pase, PhD
Matthew P. Pase, Jayandra J. Himali, Alexa S. Beiser, Hugo J. Aparicio, Claudia L. Satizabal, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri, Paul F. Jacques
SPOTLIGHT: Q&A with Dr. Pase
What is the key take-away message from your article?
We found that persons drinking artificially-sweetened (diet) soda daily, as compared to less than once per week, had almost three times the risk of developing both stroke and dementia. This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was not associated with the risk of stroke or dementia in our study. Although more research is needed before we can draw sound conclusions, our findings suggest that diet sodas may not necessarily be a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
What prompted you and your co-authors to study this topic or perform this study?
It is important to understand modifiable risk factors for stroke and dementia so that we can advocate for strategies to prevent these diseases. A healthy diet is known to be important for maintaining a healthy heart, yet research on how diet affects the brain is less well understood. Some studies suggest that sugar- and artificially-sweetened beverages are associated with poor vascular health. We know that poor vascular health is associated with both stroke and dementia, so our team we wanted to examine the effects of these beverages on the brain.
What is innovative about this work? And what are its applications?
Our study is the first to examine the association between diet soda and the risk of dementia. Our study is innovative because we quantified beverage intake over a number of years in a large sample and related this information to the risk of developing both stroke and dementia in the future. Diet sodas are popular beverages that many consider as healthier alternatives to regular soda. Given the popularity of diet beverages, we hope that our study will encourage further research into the health effects of diet beverages so that consumers can make informed, healthy choices.
Tell us about the biggest challenge you came across while conducting this study.
A large observational study like ours is able to infer trends amongst a large group of people. However, it is not possible to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. Diet soda may lead to adverse health outcomes or simply be associated with bad health outcomes because people who consume diet soda may be unhealthier to begin with. We were not able to understand people’s motivation for drinking diet soda. These challenges mean that a degree of caution is needed when interpreting our findings.
Is there anything more you would like to add about your work?
Click the article title above to access the manuscript online for free.