Everyone knows that too much sugar is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and premature death. And research has shown that low-calorie, artificially sweetened drinks aren’t any better. But for women, they hold another dreaded side effect: Besides sweet drinks making us sick and fat — the science shows they’re making us older faster.
These drinks are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to consuming too much sugar. After all, it’s easy to ignore the sugar you’re drinking when it’s a bottle of fruit juice (they’re just a bad as sodas!).
Like many, you may have switched to artificially sweetened drinks, but we’ve found they’re just as bad. In fact, a study of 5,158 adults over seven years found that people who consumed large quantities of artificial sweeteners gained more weight than non-users — the exact opposite of what you’re going for when you choose to use them.
If you’ve had a hard time cutting back, this recent study may give you some major motivation to ditch them for good…
That’s because sweet drinks aren’t just making us sick and fat — they’re making us old and frail — fast.
Sweetened drinks make women age too fast
An international team of medical and nutrition researchers is reporting that sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks are especially harmful to older women because they accelerate the aging process by increasing frailty.
Frailty is not just a byproduct of aging. It’s a standalone medical condition that is associated with a lower quality of life and a higher risk of death, hospitalization and institutionalization.
The data that connected frailty with sweet drinks came from the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term health study investigating the risk factors for major chronic diseases. It included food-frequency and health questionnaires filled out periodically by 71,935 women from 1992 to 2014.
During that 22-year period, 11,559 of the women, or 16 percent, met the criteria for frailty — meaning they reported at least three of the following:
- Reduced strength
- Low aerobic activity
- Five or more chronic illnesses
- Loss of at least 5 percent of body weight over a two-year period
Now, if you think these women may have been guzzling these sweet drinks, you’ll be surprised at these findings…
Just drinking two or more servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a day made women 32 percent more likely to become frail than those who drank none. For artificially sweetened drinks, the results were similar — a 28 percent increased risk for women who had two or more servings a day.
Other reasons to give up sweet drinks
If you’ve read up on free radical damage, all of this may have come as no surprise to you. Free radical damage is tied to premature aging and disease — and sugar is tied to free radical damage because it accelerates oxidative stress.
The more sugar you eat, the more oxidation occurs, and free radicals are a natural byproduct of this process. Supplementing with antioxidants, like the well-researched resveratrol, can help guard against free radical damage. But if you don’t give up the sweetened drinks, or at least cut down, it’s a never-ending battle.
If that’s not enough incentive to ditch the sweeteners, I’m not sure what is — except maybe all of these other reasons:
- If you’re getting 25 percent or more of your daily calories from sugar, you’re a heart attack waiting to happen. It’s sugar, not fat, that is the main dietary cause of heart disease.
- Are you worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease? A study in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that people who drink more than two sugary drinks of any type per day have reduced brain volume, including a shrunken hippocampus, and are at risk of Alzheimer’s in the long term.
- There’s even evidence that the younger and more pliable brains of adolescents are being damaged by too many sweet drinks. Studies show that daily intake of sugar will cause brain inflammation during this critical period of brain development, setting young people up for Alzheimer’s later in life. If you have a teenager or young adult in your life, you might want to encourage them to try these brain-boosting drinks as an alternative to soda.
And by the way, there is such a thing as being addicted to sugar. Luckily, you can rewire your brain to eat and drink less of it, and save your memory and your health. Here’s how.
Editor’s note: Sugar does nasty things to your health. A study published in the BMJ indicated that less than one can of soda a day could increase breast cancer risk by 22 percent. Besides trying to give it up, you can lower your risk of any cancer by living a cancer preventative lifestyle. To learn how, click here for a preview of our comprehensive guide, Surviving Cancer!
Sugary Drinks May Be Bad for Aging — NY Times
Here Are All the Scary Things Sugar Does to You — Medium: In Fitness and in Health
Frailty Not a Normal Part of Aging — Web MD
Sugary beverage intake and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease in the community — Alzheimer’s & Dementia