Artificially Sweetened Drinks Found To Triple Your Risk of Stroke & Dementia

By Arjun Walia

Artificial sweeteners have been a controversial topic for a long time, and despite a harsh industry response, multiple studies have implicated them in a host of health issues, including diabetes and cancer. Now, a new study has emerged out of Boston University showing that drinking diet soda regularly nearly triples your risk of developing stroke or dementia.

The study, titled “Sugar and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia, A Prospective Cohort Study,” was published in the journal Stroke earlier this year.

Researchers gathered data from approximately 3,000 adults, and separated them into two categories. In people older than 45 years old, they looked at stroke risk, and for people older than 60 they concentrated on dementia. After the study, their results showed that drinking diet soda nearly triples your risk of developing stroke or dementia. The study lasted for a decade, at the researchers “observed 97 cases of incident stroke (82) and 81 cases of incident dementia (63 consistent with Alzheimer’s disease).

This is truly eye-opening, but shouldn’t really come as a surprise, although it is a one of a kind study examining whether artificially sweetened beverage consumption is associated with risks of stroke or dementia.

It’s interesting, because the study also found that sugar-sweetened beverages were not associated with stroke or dementia like artificially sweetened beverages are.

Sudha Seshadri, MD, senior study author, neurology professor and faculty member at Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center told Science Daily:

These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion. It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help. Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to.”

Dr. Josh Axe sums up the problem quite well in a statement on his website:

Whether it’s “real” sugar or we’re talking about high fructose corn syrup dangers related to soda, the science is clear. The sugar industryscandal of the 1950s and ’60s set a dietary disaster into motion. Faulty sugar industry-funded studies shifted public perception, tricking people into thinking fat, not sugar, was the nutritional villain.”

Keep in mind that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the difference between, let’s say, sugar from fruit and sugar in the form of artificial sweeteners of high fructose corn syrup.

Another author of this study, Mathew Pase, also published research in March of 2017 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia. For this study, researchers used data and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and cognitive testing results, from about 4,000 people. The focus here was on people who consumed more than two sugary drinks per day of any type, and more than three per week of soda.

Among the “high intake” group, researchers discovered several signs of accelerated brain aging that all correlated with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. They also found that at least one diet soda per day was associated with smaller brain volume.

Other Factors To Consider: The Example of Aspartame

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a cascade of negative health effects by many researchers, but it still remains a controversy, especially because the industry itself thrives on making people feel stupid for even questioning these things.

But there are other factors to consider beyond the science, and that’s industry influence and scientific fraud, something that is, unfortunately, abundant in today’s world.

For example, when it comes to artificial sweeteners, did you know that aspartame failed to win FDA approval for 20 years? It was actually discovered by accident by chemist James M. Schlatter in 1965.

For 20 years, the FDA gave aspartame products the thumbs down mainly for the following safety issues and reasons:

  • Flawed data
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Fluid loss in your body

But pharmaceutical giant G.D. Searle – the makers of the NutraSweet and Equal brands – did not back down and knew that all it took was flexing political muscle. Read about how Donald Rumsfeld, the same powerful political figure in the Bush administration, proved instrumental in the FDA approval of aspartame in 1981 and the political appointments leading to it.

Here is a good summary of how aspartame became legalized in an article we published a few years ago. Dr. Joseph Mercola goes into more detail about it in his free E-BookHere is a publication from Harvard that also touches upon it, from what seems to be a neutral, but slight “pro-aspartame” side so you can get both sides of the debate.

We’ve (Collective-Evolution) have published numerous articles on aspartame; feel free to sift through them if interested.

The following is a very informative video about aspartame, and what many health practitioners believe to be the real truth behind this toxic sweetener, made by Dr. Joseph Mercola.

This article originally appeared on Collective Evolution.


West Nile risk may be lower this year; precautions still needed

There may be less risk for the public this year when it comes to health problems associated with the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, a state spokeswoman says.

Fewer pools of mosquitoes and fewer dead birds across the state are testing positive for the virus this year compared to last year, according to Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. And the 16 human cases of West Nile infection reported so far this year compare with 87 statewide by this time last year, she said last week.

Cook County reports the highest number of cases this year, with four, followed by McHenry with three and DuPage with two. Adams County is the closest area to Springfield with one case.

But state and local officials, as well as a Springfield man who continues to recover from a debilitating case of West Nile-related illness acquired last year, are urging the public to keep taking steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

“There’s a chance I will recover, but there’s a chance I won’t, too,” said Jack Handy, 64, who used to be an avid pickleball player but gets exhausted if he tries to walk as little as one block from his home on Springfield’s west side.

“I don’t know why some people get a worse case than others,” said Handy, a retired state worker and former Illiopolis schoolteacher and coach. “I’m a big proponent now of people taking precautions.”

Positive tests of mosquito traps in the county this year mean West Nile is “in our community,” said Jim Stone, director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.

The county has treated places where mosquitoes breed, and also supplied larvicide to municipalities in the county, to reduce the mosquito population, Stone said.

Locally and statewide, any increase in hot, dry weather could lead to a proliferation of mosquitoes, including the Culex variety that tends to carry West Nile, Arnold said.

There were a total of 155 human cases of West Nile in Illinois in 2016 and six West Nile-related deaths. There have been no such deaths so far this year. The record in Illinois for West Nile was in 2002, when 884 human cases and 67 deaths were reported.

Handy said he never took any of the recommended precautions against mosquito bites, such as avoiding outdoor activity at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, applying repellent containing DEET, and wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outside.

He never remembered being bitten or bothered much by mosquitoes in the past. Handy, president of the Springfield Pickleball Club, suspects he was bitten while playing pickleball, which he used to do most every day in the late afternoon or early evening at Iles Park.

Handy said he began to feel sick on Sept. 2, 2016, as he was driving to a pickleball tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. The incubation period between infection and symptoms is generally three to 11 days.

Handy played in the tournament but returned to Springfield two days later and was sick in bed at home, with body aches and a 103-degree temperature, for a week before spending 12 days as an inpatient at Memorial Medical Center.

He was diagnosed as one of what would be two West Nile cases for Sangamon County in 2016. He came down with West Nile-related encephalitis, or an inflammation of brain tissue, according to one of his doctors, infectious-disease specialist Steven O’Marro of Springfield Clinic.

Handy learned that there’s no specific medicine to treat West Nile, which left him with memory loss — a short-term problem that resolved after a few days — and some paralysis and weakness in his right leg and left arm.

When he was released from the hospital, he had a hard time walking. With therapy and time, his leg and arm have almost returned to normal, but he gets out of breath when he walks the few steps to his mailbox along the street in front of his house.

O’Marro said West Nile, which inflames the central nervous system — the brain and the spinal cord — aggravated a pre-existing problem with his diaphragm.

Handy’s breathing has slowly improved over the past year, but he’s unable to exert himself enough to get back in shape.

Handy said he has gained back the 35 pounds he lost a year ago during the worst effects of West Nile, but he said he has lost a lot of muscle and saw it replaced with fat.

“I really haven’t sweated in about a year,” he said. “I can’t work up to it.”

He had to drop out from exhaustion when he tried to play a pickleball game two weeks ago.

O’Marro said Handy’s breathing may improve over time with additional rehab.

“It’s hard to predict,” O’Marro said. “He’s made an incredible recovery from where he was.”

Handy doesn’t like that he has had to depend so much on his wife, Lynn, a retired state worker, over the past year. But Handy, who has two daughters and two grandchildren, said he knows things could be much worse.

“I came out a little better than most people,” Handy said, referring to cases he has read about or watched on TV in which people died or became bedridden or needing long-term nursing home care.

Seventy to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile exhibit no symptoms, while 20 percent to 30 percent may get what’s known as West Nile fever and feel weak and get muscle aches but require no medical treatment, according to Dr. David Warren, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine.

Only about 1 percent to 2 percent of patients get severe complications such as those suffered by Handy, O’Marro said.

Patients who are older have a higher risk of medical complications from the virus, as well as people with Type 2 diabetes, which Handy has, according to O’Marro. There are genetic factors unknown so far to doctors that also may put people at greater risk, O’Marro said.

Cases that lead to hospitalizations and tests are the ones more likely to be counted in the statistics, health experts say.

Even though it’s relatively rare for West Nile to result in hospitalization or death, precautions to reduce the risk of mosquito bites are worth it, Warren said, because West Nile is just one of several diseases spread by mosquitoes.

An Israeli War with Hezbollah Risks War with Iran

In a speech on August 13, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, reassured his public that Israel will not attack Hezbollah and Lebanon, arguing that Israeli officials believe “any war on Lebanon, no matter its objectives, will not be worth the costs Israel will incur in such a war.” In other words, Israel will go to war only if faced with no other course of action.

In his speech, Nasrallah was addressing two audiences: a Lebanese public that was concerned about an impending Israeli attack as a result of the usual summer war of words between Hezbollah and Israel; and Israeli citizens. The mutual deterrence regime that has been in place in southern Lebanon since the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah has benefited constituencies on both sides of the border.

Nevertheless, Hezbollah and Israeli officials have engaged in occasional rhetorical escalation since 2006, partly to convey to the opponent their resolve and readiness to fight and partly as a psychological warfare tactic to sow fear in their opponent’s constituency. Both sides paint apocalyptic images of this war – Israel threatens to level all of Lebanon’s infrastructure, while Hezbollah vows to strike Israeli nuclear facilities in Dimona.

Despite the occasional flare-ups between the two sides, as in 2015 when Hezbollah antitank missiles killed two Israeli soldiers in retaliation for Israel’s drone strike, which killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general in the Syrian region of Quneitra, both sides have avoided actions that would lead to an all-out battle. For the past 11 years, military escalations between the Israel and Hezbollah have been very short in duration and followed a carefully calibrated tit-for-tat pattern with clear messaging from both sides seeking de-escalation.

Since 2011, Syria has offered the military theater of choice for both sides to settle scores and/or to reinforce the rules of the game between them. According to the Israeli prime minister, Israel has struck Hezbollah weapons convoys in Syria on a dozen occasions to prevent Hezbollah’s acquisition of “game-changing” weapons. Yet, Hezbollah responded only once, in May 2014, when it claimed that an Israeli attack on a weapons convoy on the Syrian side of the Lebanese-Syrian border had in fact hit a Hezbollah military base inside Lebanon. The message from Hezbollah was clear: As long as Israel hits Hezbollah weapons storage facilities and/or convoys in Syria, Hezbollah will not retaliate. This rule will not change anytime soon. Neither Hezbollah nor Russia, which now controls the Syrian skies, are going to stop Israel from continuing its attacks on Hezbollah weapons convoys and storage facilities in Syria.

Absent a wild card, neither Hezbollah nor Israel sees all-out war as serving their short-to-medium term interests. Hezbollah prioritizes the fight in Syria, and for the foreseeable future, Hezbollah will be in Syria shoring up and expanding the Syrian regime territorial holdings. A Syrian leadership whose political survival depends on the military muscle provided by Hezbollah and pro-Iranian forces serves Hezbollah and Iranian objectives in the Levant.

Until 2011, Bashar al-Assad was a hedging partner to the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas resistance axis. On one hand, he provided Hezbollah with secure strategic depth and Hamas with a base for its expatriate leadership. Hezbollah maintained weapons storage facilities in Syria, and Assad guaranteed the group secure transport routes through Syrian territory. Some of Hezbollah’s military hardware was also made in Syrian regime-owned weapons factories assisted by Iranian experts. On the other hand, the Syrian regime stuck by its 1974 disengagement agreement with Israel, denying Hezbollah and Hamas the permission to launch attacks against Israel from Syrian territory. Moreover, when either Hezbollah or Hamas was engaged in a military confrontation with Israel in 2006 and 2008-2009 respectively, the Syrian regime offered them rhetorical support.

Bashar al-Assad has followed his father’s playbook in his policy vis-à-vis the conflict with Israel: Support proxies to fight Israel, be it Lebanese and/or Palestinian groups, while keeping the door open to peace negotiations with Israel. In the summer of 2006, while Israeli airplanes were bombarding Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon, Assad was conducting back-channel diplomacy with Israel.

Assad can no longer follow this hedging policy vis-à-vis Israel. Not only has Syria become a testing ground for Russian military hardware, it has also become the hub of an Iranian-Hezbollah co-led Shia-majority expeditionary force that consists of tens of thousands of Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani fighters whose mission is to secure Iranian and Hezbollah interests in the Levant. In a June 23 speech, Hassan Nasrallah warned that any future Israeli war against Syria or Lebanon will draw thousands of fighters from the same array of militias now fighting in support of the Syrian regime, thereby indicating that the response to such an Israeli attack will be on waged on multiple fronts.

Southwestern Syria might provide the flashpoint for such a war. A de-escalation agreement reached by the U.S. and Russia with Jordanian assistance has established a safe zone in southwestern Syria. One objective of the agreement is to secure Moscow’s help in denying pro-Iranian groups, including Hezbollah, the ability to operate close to Jordanian and Israeli borders. In the short-to-medium term, the Syrian regime and its Iranian patron seem to have concluded that it is their interest to live by this agreement. On the one hand, they need the U.S. to fight ISIS. On the other hand, they need Russian permission and air force in the fight against al Qaeda affiliated groups in Idlib.

Once these fights are brought to successful completion, their calculi might change, especially if the Trump administration decides to then exit the Syrian military theater, as seems to be their future plan. If Iran and Hezbollah were to expand their military presence near the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Tel Aviv might come to the conclusion that it has no choice but to attack Hezbollah forces positioned there. Given Nasrallah’s recent warning of a multi-front war, the all-out battle that analysts have been predicting for the last 11 years might then become a fait accompli.


Randa Slim is director of the Track II Dialogues initiative at The Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute. A former vice president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, Slim has been a senior program advisor at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a guest scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, a program director at Resolve, Inc, and a program officer at… Read More

Autism risk increases 34% if mom has fever while pregnant, study says

Pregnant women who come down with a fever, especially in the second trimester, are at increased risk of having a baby with autism, a new study reports.

Research published Tuesday by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health observed 95,754 Norwegian children born between 1999-2009. About 15,700 children where born to mothers who had fevers during their pregnancies. Within that group, researchers identified 583 cases of autism spectrum disorder.

Autism risk increased by 34% when mothers reported a fever over 99 degrees at any time during pregnancy. The risk was 40% when fevers occurred in the second trimester. Women who reported having three or more fevers after the twelfth week of pregnancy, increased autism chances for their child by more than 300%.

Mothers who took ibuprofen for fevers did not have children with autism. But, the sample size of those women was so small researchers could not draw any specific conclusions about the drug’s effect.

“Future work should focus on identifying and preventing prenatal infections and inflammatory responses that may contribute to autism spectrum disorder,” said senior author W. Ian Lipkin, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity, in a statement.

The link between maternal fevers and autism has been documented before, but this study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, is more expansive than past research.


While a single cause of autism isn’t known, previous research has identified other autism risk factors, such as children born to older parentsbabies born prematurely or at a low birth weight and second-born children who were conceived less than a year from firstborn children.

About one in 68 children are on the autism spectrum, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets

Common painkillers linked to increased risk of heart attack, study says

(CNN) Taking even over-the-counter doses of common painkillers known as NSAIDs — nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack in a new study.

The likelihood of experiencing a heart attack was calculated to increase by an average of 20% to 50%, compared with someone not taking the drugs, regardless of the dosage and amount of time the medications are taken.
The findings are observational and based on an association, however, with the drugs not proved to be a a direct cause of heart attack.
This group of drugs includes ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen, which are available over the counter or by prescription for higher doses, to relieve pain or fever resulting from a range of causes, including flu, headaches, back pain and menstrual cramps. Their range of uses also means they are often taken as needed, for short periods of time.
The level of risk increased as early as one week into the use of any drug in this category and at any dose, and the risk associated with taking higher doses was greatest within the first month.
“We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack,” said Dr. Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, who led the research. “There is a perception that naproxen has the lowest cardiovascular risk (among the NSAIDs), but that’s not true.”
Researchers’ overall finding was that taking any dosage of these drugs for one week, one month or longer was linked to an increased risk of a heart attack. The risk appeared to decline when these painkillers were no longer taken, with a slight decline one to 30 days after use and a greater decline, falling below 11%, between 30 days and one year after use.
Based on the paper, published Tuesday in the BMJ, Bally’s team suggests that doctors and patients weigh the potential harms and benefits before relying on the drugs as a treatment option.
“People minimize the risks because drugs are over the counter and they don’t read labels,” Bally said. “Why not consider all treatment options? … Every therapeutic decision is a balance of benefits and risk.”

Building on previous research

Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization, with 80% of all deaths in this category due to heart attacks and strokes. Each year, it’s estimated that 735,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. In the United Kingdom, more than 200,000 hospital visits each year are due to a heart attack.
Previous research has showed that this class of painkillers could increase the risk of having a heart attack, known as myocardial infarction. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration called on drugmakers to update their warnings labels to identify an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
But the specifics in terms of timing, dosage and treatment durations were less clear.
Bally and her team reviewed all available studies in this area from Canadian and European databases, analyzing the findings from 446,763 people, with 61,460 of them having had a heart attack. Their goal was to calculate the risk, determinants and time course of heart attacks associated with the use of NSAIDs under typical circumstances.
The team looked at very short-term use and at any dose, said Bally. “In real life, people use drugs at low doses and use them on and off,” she said, adding that this is not reflected in many clinical trials, for example, in which people have often been monitored during prolonged use of these drugs.
When using them for one week, the greatest risk was associated with rofecoxib, followed by diclofenac, ibuprofen and then celecoxib, respectively, though all except celecoxib had similar levels of risk, hovering around 50% increased odds of a heart attack, at any dose.
At higher doses, typically needing a prescription, some drugs had an even greater risk of heart attack between one week and one month of use. For example, naproxen showed a 75% increased likelihood of a heart attack within one month with doses of 1200 milligrams per day or more, and naproxen showed an 83% increased likelihood of a heart attack with doses greater than 750 milligrams per day when taken for one week to one month.
But the level of risk declined, on average, when the drugs were used for longer than one month.
“This is relative to not taking these drugs, your baseline risk,” Bally said. “The risk is not 75%. It’s an increase (maybe) from a tiny baseline risk that they have.”
Millions of these pills are sold every year, Bally said. “Therefore the risk, no matter how small or relative, is important to note from a population viewpoint.”
“We already know that these drugs increase your risk of having a heart attack,” said Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, in a statement. “However this large-scale study worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDs.” Knapton was not involved in the research.
Knapton further added that people must be made aware of the risk and that alternative medication or treatment should be considered where appropriate. For example, physical therapy or yoga could be used to alleviate pain from an injury.

Association, not causation

The researchers stress that the findings are purely observational, as they used readily available data about certain populations. Not all potentially influential factors could be taken into account, they say.
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, commented that a number of lifestyle factors, such as smoking and body mass index, are not available in the data about the study participants. “It leads to uncertainty,” he said.
Tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, alcohol abuse and hypertension are just a few of many factors that can cause a heart attack.
“This is the largest study of its kind, but it is still observational data based on prescription or dispensing information, rather than whether people were actually taking their medication,” said Dr. Amitava Banerjee, senior clinical lecturer in clinical data science at UCL in the UK. “Although these data reflect real-world use of NSAIDs, it is impossible to control for all the factors which may lead to confounding or bias.”
This uncertainty combined with the overall observational nature of the findings means the cause of the increased risk shown in the analysis cannot be explained, nor can the drugs be directly stated as a cause of heart attacks.
Bally thinks a cause could be changes in blood pressure or effects on kidney function, as these areas are poorly studied. But she stresses that all five drugs studied have individual behaviors. “It will be hard to point to one factor,” she said.

Relative, not absolute risk

“The paper has good evidence that there is some risk of a heart attack for all NSAIDs and suggests that the risk starts immediately on starting them, but is only expressed in relative terms,” said Evans, who was not involved in the research. “There is no clear description of the absolute risk.”
The findings are based on the chances of a heart attack occurring in people taking these drugs, compared with those not taking them. If risk was already low in a person, a 20% to 50% increased risk is not that much cause for concern.
“The risks are relatively small, and for most people who are not at high risk of a heart attack, these findings have minimal implications,” Evans said.
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It’s also possible that people taking these drugs are, on average, already at higher risk than people not taking the drugs, he said, commenting that the study did not account for these factors in their calculations. For example, the reason someone is prescribed an NSAID, such as for severe pain, may also be the reason they have a heart attack soon after. So while the study shows that risk of a heart attack increases as soon as a few days into taking NSAIDs, the links may not be as clear as suggested, Evans said.
“The most likely mechanisms for action of the drugs would be expected to show a low risk at the start and only have an effect on heart attacks after longer usage. That this wasn’t the case casts some doubt on the findings of an immediate increase in risk,” he said.
“All effective medicines have unwanted effects, and NSAIDs, although easily available, are not without some risks, but this study is no reason to induce anxiety in most users of these drugs,” he said.
But while waiting for more clarity on the true level of risk and its cause, experts still advise caution when prescribing or taking these painkillers.
“The increased risk of heart attack with NSAIDs, regardless of which one, means that both health professionals and the public should weigh up the harm and the benefit when prescribing these medications, especially for more than a day or two,” Banerjee said.
“Despite the over-the-counter availability of the traditional NSAIDs, this caution is still required. The mechanism of this increased risk of heart attack is not at all clear from existing studies.”

Diet sodas may be tied to stroke, dementia risk


(CNN) Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only may be associated with health risks for your body, but also possibly your brain, a new study suggests.

Artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet sodas, were tied to a higher risk of stroke and dementia in the study, which published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke on Thursday.
The study sheds light only on an association, as the researchers were unable to determine an actual cause-and-effect relationship between sipping artificially sweetened drinks and an increased risk for stroke and dementia. Therefore, some experts caution that the findings should be interpreted carefully.
No connection was found between those health risks and other sugary beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice and fruit drinks.
Are diet sodas dangerous to your health?

Are diet sodas dangerous to your health? 04:19
“We have little data on the health effects of diet drinks and this is problematic because diet drinks are popular amongst the general population,” said Matthew Pase, a senior research fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the new study.
“More research is needed to study the health effects of diet drinks so that consumers can make informed choices concerning their health,” he said.
The new study involved data on 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60 from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The data came from the Framingham Heart Study, a project of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Boston University.
In the older-than-45 group, the researchers measured for stroke and in the older-than-60 group, they measured for dementia.
“The sample sizes are different because we studied people of different ages,” Pase said. “Dementia is rare in people under the age of 60 and so we focused only on those aged over 60 years for dementia. Similarly, stroke is rare in people aged under 45 and so we focused on people older than age 45 for stroke.”
How diet soda confuses your body

How diet soda confuses your body 01:52
The researchers analyzed how many sugary beverages and artificially sweetened soft drinks each person in the two different age groups drank, at different time points, between 1991 and 2001. Then, they compared that with how many people suffered stroke or dementia over the next 10 years.
Compared to never drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks, those who drank one a day were almost three times as likely to have an ischemic stroke, caused by blocked blood vessels, the researchers found.
They also found that those who drank one a day were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Those who drank one to six artificially sweetened beverages a week were 2.6 times as likely to experience an ischemic stroke but were no more likely to develop dementia, Pase said.
“So, it was not surprising to see that diet soda intake was associated with stroke and dementia. I was surprised that sugary beverage intake was not associated with either the risks of stroke or dementia because sugary beverages are known to be unhealthy,” Pase said.
Unhealthy sugary drinks

In response, Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, issued a statement from the group that said low-calorie sweeteners found in beverages have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities.
“The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion — they are safe for consumption,” the statement said.
“While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect. And according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many risk factors can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing stroke and dementia including age, hypertension, diabetes and genetics. NIH does not mention zero calorie sweeteners as a risk factor,” the statement said. “America’s beverage companies support and encourage balanced lifestyles by providing people with a range of beverage choices — with and without calories and sugar — so they can choose the beverage that is right for them.”
Separate previous studies have shown an association between the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and adverse health effects, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and possibly even heart failure.
“This article provides further evidence though on artificially sweetened beverages and their possible effects on vascular health, including stroke and dementia,” said Dr. Ralph Sacco, professor and chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, about the new study.
Sacco was a co-author of an editorial published alongside the study in the journal Stroke on Thursday.
“We believe the pathways of which artificially sweetened beverages would affect the brain are probably through vascular mechanisms,” Sacco said.
“When the authors controlled for hypertension and diabetes and obesity the effects diminish, which implies that some of the effects of artificially sweetened beverages could still be going through a vascular pathway,” he said about the new study. “Many strokes are caused by hardening of arteries; and the risk of dementia is also increased by the hardening of arteries in large and small vessels. So, I believe the mechanisms may be through vascular disease, though we can’t prove it.”
Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, called the new study “a piece of a larger puzzle” when it comes to better understanding how your diet and behaviors impact your brain.
“It’s actually really more of your overall diet and overall lifestyle that is linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk, and we do know that heart disease and diabetes are linked to an increased risk of dementia,” said Snyder, who was not involved in the new study.
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“We know that sugary and artificially sweetened beverages are not great for us. This study adds strength to that, and also says they may not be great for your brain, specifically,” she said. “There are alternatives — things we can all do everyday to keep our brains and our bodies as healthy as we can as we age.” Alternatives such as regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates heart rate and increases blood flow and doing puzzles and games to activate and challenge the mind. These are recommendations from the Alzheimer’s Associations list of 10 lifestyle habits to reduce risk of cognitive decline.

Millions Risk Losing Health Insurance in Republican Plan, Analysts Say

WASHINGTON — Millions of people who get private health coverage through the Affordable Care Act would be at risk of losing it under the replacement legislation proposed by House Republicans, analysts said Tuesday, with Americans in their 50s and 60s especially likely to find coverage unaffordable.

Starting in 2020, the plan would do away with the current system of providing premium subsidies based on people’s income and the cost of insurance where they live. Instead, it would provide tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 per year based on their age.

But the credits would not cover nearly as much of the cost of premiums as the current subsidies do, at least for the type of comprehensive coverage that the Affordable Care Act requires, analysts said. For many people, that could mean the difference between keeping coverage under the new system and having to give it up.

“The central issue is the tax credits are not going to be sufficient,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, the chief executive of Molina Healthcare, an insurer that offers coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in California, Florida and several other states.

Martha Brawley of Monroe, N.C., said she voted for President Trump in the hope he could make insurance more affordable. But on Tuesday, Ms. Brawley, 55, was feeling increasingly nervous based on what she had heard about the new plan from television news reports. She pays about $260 per month for a Blue Cross plan and receives a subsidy of $724 per month to cover the rest of her premium. Under the House plan, she would receive $3,500 a year in tax credits — $5,188 less than she gets under the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m scared, I’ll tell you that right now, to think about not having insurance at my age,” said Ms. Brawley, who underwent a liver biopsy on Monday after her doctor found that she has an autoimmune liver disease. “If I didn’t have insurance, these doctors wouldn’t see me.”

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release its official estimates of how many people would lose coverage under the proposal, but a report from Standard & Poor’s estimated that two million to four million people would drop out of the individual insurance market, largely because people in their 50s and early 60s — those too young to qualify for Medicare — would face higher costs. Other analysts, including those at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, have estimated larger coverage losses.


Alan Lipsky and his wife, A. J. Rhodes, of Arden, N.C., would see their family’s annual tax credit of $25,164 reduced to $11,500 under the new plan, covering less than half of the total cost of their coverage.CreditMike Belleme for The New York Times

While the tax credits in the Republican proposal are the most generous for older people — $4,000 for a 60-year-old compared with $2,000 for a 25-year-old — they end up covering less of an older person’s costs. As soon as next year, the Republican plan would allow insurers to begin charging older individuals much more than younger individuals. Insurers are prohibited today from charging the older person more than three times as much as the youngest, but the Republican plan would allow them to charge five times as much. A 64-year-old could see annual premiums increase by almost 30 percent to $13,100 on average, according to the S.&P. analysis.

For people like Alan Lipsky, a self-employed consultant in Arden, N.C., the Republican plan could have a huge financial impact. Mr. Lipsky, who is 60 and whose wife is in her 50s, receives a tax credit of $2,097 a month for his family of four and pays $66 a month out of his own pocket. His family’s total annual tax credit of $25,164 would be reduced to $11,500 under the new plan, covering less than half of the total cost of his current coverage.

“I don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect,” said Mr. Lipsky, whose family deductible is $12,000 per year, “but at least for people like me it gives a baseline, and I’m worried I won’t have that baseline anymore. What they’re talking about is unaffordable for me.”

Not everyone would lose out. Some younger adults would probably benefit the most from age-based tax credits and proposed changes that would allow insurers to offer them less expensive policies, such as those with less generous coverage.

Joshua Yospyn, 40, a freelance photographer in Washington, earns slightly too much to receive a tax credit under the Affordable Care Act and pays about $374 a month for his BlueChoice H.M.O. plan. The Republican proposal would provide him with an age-based tax credit of $3,000 a year, which would cut his current premium costs by two-thirds, to $1,488 from $4,488.

Mr. Yospyn said he would love cheaper premiums but did not want to give up comprehensive coverage, his low deductible of $500 a year or the doctors he now sees. A physical this month, his first in several years, revealed that his cholesterol had risen sharply, leaving him “freaked out,” he said.

“I just want protection across the board,” he said, referring to the kind of policy he preferred. “It’s what I’m used to.”

Other people likely to be hurt under the new plan are those in areas where the cost of coverage is high. Subsidies are now pegged to the cost of a plan within a specific market, but the tax credits in the Republican plan are the same whether you live in Alaska or Minnesota. Coverage tends to be most expensive in parts of the country where there are few hospitals or few insurers. “When it comes to health insurance, high-cost areas tend to be rural areas,” said Cynthia Cox, a researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which recently did an analysis of how the tax credits compared with the subsidies now available.


Some people would benefit under the Republican plan, like Joshua Yospyn, 40, a freelance photographer in Washington. He would get an age-based tax credit of $3,000 a year, which would cut his current premium costs by two-thirds, to $1,488 from $4,488. CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The proposal would also eliminate another important element of the subsidies, the financial assistance available for low-income people with their out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-payments. While many of the plans now sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces have large deductibles, the cost-sharing reductions available protect lower-income people from medical bills that could otherwise run into the thousands of dollars. Analysts say the lack of out-of-pocket assistance is likely to make any plan much less attractive to low-income people.

Legislation could also fundamentally weaken the insurance market by doing away with the so-called individual mandate, which requires people to have coverage or pay a tax penalty. While it would be replaced by a 30 percent surcharge when someone buys a policy after dropping coverage, the surcharge could be weaker than the current mandate, and younger people might continue to gamble on not having coverage until they get sick.

The result, said Donald H. Taylor Jr., a health policy professor at Duke University, is that people who buy coverage are sicker, causing the cost of premiums to soar. “This looks like to me adverse selection on steroids,” he said. “I don’t see how it doesn’t crater the individual market.”

Dr. Molina, the Molina Healthcare chief executive, said insurers are likely to increase their premiums significantly because they will worry about enrolling more high-cost patients as healthier people opt to go without coverage.

“Insurance companies are going to jack up the rates,” predicted Dr. Molina, who said premiums might increase even more than they did last year when some companies raised the rates by 25 percent or more.

Ms. Brawley in Monroe, N.C., said she and her husband could barely afford their current premiums, and her deductible of $3,500 a year is far too high. Still, she added, “it’s better than owing $20,000 or $30,000.”

“This is my second year with the Obama insurance,” she continued, “but before then, I didn’t have any and didn’t go to the doctor.”

She and her husband voted for Mr. Trump — the first time she had voted in her life — she said, because “I thought he would make it better.”

Study suggests air pollution increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 1, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Air pollution may cause more than just lung disease: New research suggests that if tiny particles in the air from power plants and cars are inhaled, they might also invade the brain, increasing the risk for dementia.

“Although the link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease is a new scientific frontier, we now have evidence that air pollution, like tobacco, is dangerous to the aging brain,” said study co-senior author Caleb Finch. He’s with the University of Southern California’s (USC) Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

For the study, the USC scientists collected samples of air particles with technology designed by university engineers. The researchers used the technology to expose female mice to air pollution.

“Our state-of-the-art aerosol technologies, called particle concentrators, essentially take the air of a typical urban area and convert it to the air of a freeway or a heavily polluted city like Beijing,” study co-author Constantinos Sioutas, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, explained in a university news release.

“We then use these samples to test exposure and assess adverse neuro-developmental or neuro-degenerative health effects,” he added.

The mice carried a certain genetic variation, called the APOE4 gene, which increases the risk for Alzheimer’s. After being exposed to air pollution for 15 weeks, the mice had 60 percent more amyloid plaque, the clusters of protein associated with the degenerative disease, the researchers said.

They also analyzed data on more than 3,600 3U.S. women between the ages of 65 and 79 years from 48 states. None of the women had dementia when the study began.

After considering certain variables — such as race, ethnicity, lifestyle and health — the researchers found older women living in areas where miniscule air pollution particles exceed federal safety standards may be at 81 percent higher risk for cognitive decline. They may also face a 92 percent greater likelihood of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The negative effects of air pollution on the brain were particularly notable among the women who the APOE4 gene, the study authors added.

The research was published Jan. 31 in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

If their findings were extended to include the general population, the study’s authors calculate that air pollution might be to blame for about 21 percent of all cases of dementia.

The research comes with several caveats. First, it did not prove that air pollution causes the risk of dementia to rise. Second, studies involving animals frequently fail to produce similar results in humans.

Finch said: “Microscopic particles generated by fossil fuels get into our body directly through the nose into the brain. Cells in the brain treat these particles as invaders and react with inflammatory responses, which over the course of time, appear to exacerbate and promote Alzheimer’s disease.”

Jiu-Chiuan Chen, co-senior author of the study, said, “Our study — the first of its kind conducted in the U.S. — provides the inaugural scientific evidence of a critical Alzheimer’s risk gene possibly interacting with air particles to accelerate brain aging.”

“The experimental data showed that exposure of mice to air particles collected on the edge of [the] USC damaged neurons in the hippocampus, the memory center that is vulnerable to both brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease,” added Chen, who is an associate professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Less than one-third of all U.S. counties have ozone or particle pollution monitors, according to the American Lung Association. The group notes that six of the 10 most polluted U.S. cities are in California. The USC researchers said the findings could have global implications because pollution has no borders.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more on dementia.

Overweight kids risk reduced brainpower as adults — study

Researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced Thursday that they had found evidence that overweight in adolescence can lead to reduced brainpower in midlife, especially among those who come from lower-income families.

The full results from the research, carried out by the Hebrew University’s Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, are to be published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s. Scientists believe the findings are especially significant due to evidence that reduced cognitive function in midlife can lead to dementia in old age.

To conduct the study, the team tracked the height and weight of a group of 507 individuals over a 33-year period, starting at the age of 17. When the participants reached the ages of 48-52, their socioeconomic position was evaluated and they were asked to complete a cognitive assessment.

Researchers reported a link between body mass index — a measure of a person’s weight compared to their height — in youngsters and their cognitive skills decades later. A higher BMI during adolescence, indicating an overweight body, they found, can impact how a person’s brain functions when they are much older, even if their weight — and BMI — changes.

“We found that higher BMI in late adolescence and the long-term cumulative burden of BMI predicted poorer cognitive function later in life,” said senior researcher Jeremy Kark. “Importantly, this study shows that an impact of obesity on cognitive function in midlife may already begin in adolescence, independently of changes in BMI over the adult life course.”

While previous research has identified a link between a person’s childhood and how smart they grow up to be, the Israeli research pinned down a specific early influence that being overweight has on those who grow up in lower socioeconomic households.

“Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that childhood living conditions, as reflected also by height, influence cognitive function later in life; however, our study is unique in showing that an adverse association of higher BMI with cognitive function appears to begin in adolescence and that it appears to be restricted to adults with lower childhood socioeconomic position,” Kark noted.

The study also saw indications that tall people are smarter and that women — but not men — who have a growth spurt in late adolescence gain a brain boost.

“Our results also show that taller stature was associated with better global cognitive function, independent of childhood and adult socioeconomic position, and that height increase in late adolescence, reflecting late growth, conferred a protective effect, but among women only,” said doctoral student Irit Cohen-Manheim, the lead author for the paper.

“Evidence for the association between impaired cognitive function in midlife and subsequent dementia supports the clinical relevance of our results,” she continued. “Findings of the relation of BMI in adolescence with poorer midlife cognitive status, particularly in light of the ongoing epidemic of childhood obesity, require confirmation.”

Donald Trump’s Missteps Risk Putting a Ceiling Over His Support in Swing States

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — Donald J. Trump has been waiting for months for a poll in which he cracks 50 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton in any of his top battleground states: Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio or Pennsylvania.

“It’ll happen after the conventions,” he said in a July 6 interview. “Believe me.”

But in the last two weeks, instead of attracting a surge of new admirers, Mr. Trump has been hemorrhaging support among loyal Republicans, anti-establishment independents, Clinton-loathing Democrats and others, according to polls and 30 interviews with a cross-section of voters. His dispute with the parents of a Muslim Army captain who was killed in action in Iraq, and his suggestion that “Second Amendment people” could somehow stop Mrs. Clinton, have intensified doubts about Mr. Trump even among Americans who were initially attracted to his frank and freewheeling style.

For a candidate who once seemed like an electoral phenomenon, with an unshakable following and a celebrity appeal that crossed party lines, Mr. Trump now faces the possibility that his missteps have erected a ceiling over his support among some demographic groups and in several swing states. He has been stuck under 45 percent of the vote in Ohio and Pennsylvania for weeks, polls show, while Mrs. Clinton has gained support.

Several Republican voters say they grow leery every time Mr. Trump speaks these days, for fear he will embarrass them, and feel increasingly repelled just when they hoped he might adjust his message to try to draw more people in. “I liked that he was politically incorrect. But now I feel, enough already,” Trish Grove, a banker, said as she finished lunch at a diner here in Doylestown, a bellwether suburb north of Philadelphia. “He’s not going to win a majority of voters by sounding offensive and ridiculous.”

After the conventions in late July, Mrs. Clinton’s support among young people rose 12 percent, and she gained ground among liberals and moderates, according to an analysis of a New York Times/CBS News poll before the conventions and a CBS News poll after them. Mr. Trump improved only with voters who held bachelor’s degrees but did not attend graduate school.

“Undecided voters still have a long way to go before they vote for Trump,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist who holds focus groups with voters. “He has high unfavorable ratings with so many voters that he would need to win most of the rest of the electorate, and his post-convention problems aren’t helping him grow.”

Mr. Trump’s troubles are perhaps most pronounced in Pennsylvania, which he has targeted for victory in November even though the state has gone Democratic in the last six presidential elections. He is running strong in the traditionally conservative western part of the state, and his advisers argue that his populist views on trade, immigration and foreign policy could resonate with independents and blue-collar Democrats.

“We have to win Pennsylvania,” Mr. Trump said on Friday during a campaign rally in Erie. “We win Pennsylvania, we’re going to win it,” apparently a reference to the presidency.

But to carry the state, pollsters say, Mr. Trump would need to beat Mrs. Clinton here in the Philadelphia suburbs, where President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in 2012 by about nine percentage points. (Mr. Obama carried the state by about five points.) Yet Mrs. Clinton holds a wide lead in those suburbs, 52 percent to 26 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll published Wednesday.

“There is absolutely no way Trump wins Pennsylvania unless he can broaden his appeal significantly and overcome his huge deficit in the suburbs,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College poll and a longtime analyst of Pennsylvania politics. “He does well with white working-class voters, but there simply aren’t enough of them in Pennsylvania to win. And he can’t stick with his political message for more than five minutes.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers expressed confidence in their strategy and questioned whether public polls fully reflect his support. While some did express concern that there could be a ceiling on his support among women and members of minority groups, they also said he had room to grow among first-time voters, white men and independents — who, they said, will not pay attention to the race until the presidential debates begin in late September.

Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, said the debates would be critical to winning over voters, but he also pointed to increased spending by the Clinton campaign on television ads in Pennsylvania and Ohio as proof of the threat Mr. Trump poses there.

“We expect to do very well in the suburbs, which will help us to carry Pennsylvania,” Mr. Manafort said. “The demographics are very positive for Donald Trump and the issue agenda favors Donald Trump in Pennsylvania.”


Adam Woldow last week in Doylestown, Pa. “America’s role in the world matters to me, and I don’t want a president who yells at other people,” he said, adding that he was leaning toward Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. CreditCharles Mostoller for The New York Times 

A Clinton campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but several of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers and allies said they were highly optimistic that she would carry Pennsylvania and most other Rust Belt states.

There are few greater threats to candidates than a ceiling on their support, which is why many take more moderate positions during the general election in hopes of appealing to the broadest possible constituency. Republicans and Democrats have a history of nominating presidential candidates genial and ideologically flexible enough to expand their support beyond party loyalists.

Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton have historically high unfavorability ratings and extremely low favorability ratings among undecided voters. Yet since the conventions, Mrs. Clinton has focused her message and campaign schedule on undecided voters in swing states. Mr. Trump has shown little interest in changing his unorthodox approach: In an interview on CNBC on Thursday he said he would “just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now,” even if he ended up losing.

Many Republican-leaning voters here in Bucks County said in interviews that Mr. Trump seemed almost to be willfully trying to alienate them: He says the right things about repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes, but then appears to revel in insulting women and Mexicans and singling out Muslims for harsh treatment. Several voters also cited Mr. Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter, and others said that he seemed too hotheaded in confrontational situations, such as when he came under criticism from Khizr Khan, the father of the United States Army officer killed in Iraq, during his speech at the Democratic convention.

“America’s role in the world matters to me, and I don’t want a president who yells at other people,” said Adam Woldow, a dermatologist in Richboro, Pa., who said he voted for Mr. Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.

As he waited for his station wagon to emerge from a carwash, Dr. Woldow paused to consider why Mr. Trump bothered him so much. “He just has so much baggage at this point, all the things he keeps saying,” he said. “I feel he’s even a bit racist.” Dr. Woldow said he was leaning toward Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.

Penny Clendaniel-Bullaro, an independent from Morrisville, Pa., who also voted for Mr. Romney, said she was dismayed when Mr. Trump insinuated that Mr. Khan’s wife, Ghazala, had not been “allowed” to speak when she appeared alongside him at the convention.

“Who is Trump to make these judgments? Trump speaks all the time with his own wife by his side, silent,” Ms. Clendaniel-Bullaro said while perusing the lunch menu at a diner in Doylestown. “He should be talking about issues if he wants to actually win people over.”

But Mariann Davies, a lawyer in Doylestown who supports Mr. Trump, predicted that his popularity would grow among voters who do not want Mrs. Clinton to continue the Obama administration’s policies.

“He’s talking about the issues everyone is pussyfooting around,” Ms. Davies said of Mr. Trump. “I think he could attract more voters if he would just focus on trade policy and jobs because people around here care a lot about those things.”

For most politicians, a call-it-as-you-see-it approach has limits: Candidates who offend too many voters, or look overly impulsive or intemperate, generally lose. But Mr. Trump believes that voters who have seen hard times in their communities will embrace him as a truth teller.

In the blue-collar cities of northeast Pennsylvania, a traditionally Democratic area where Mr. Trump would need to overperform, several voters said they were skeptical of his leadership skills even though they shared his concerns about immigration and national security.

Ody Draklellis, a Republican who owns the Queen City Diner in Allentown, said people in the area were open to Mr. Trump because they mistrusted Mrs. Clinton and were tired of Mr. Obama’s policies. But Mr. Trump’s main problem, Mr. Draklellis added, “is Mr. Trump himself.”

“Could Trump be a good president? Probably. But he might get us into a war, so the risk is too high,” said Mr. Draklellis, who has not chosen a candidate. “You would think he’d be totally focused on all of Hillary’s vulnerabilities. He could grow in the polls that way. Instead he just shoots his mouth off.”