Diet–Soda Consumption Linked to Increased Incidence of Heart Attack and Stroke – Could Magnesium Play a Role?
A recent study conducted by researchers from The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has uncovered an association between diet–soda consumption and increased incidence of stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and vascular death. The researchers, analyzing data from the multi–ethnic Northern Manhattan Study, found that those who consumed a diet soda everyday experienced a 61% higher risk of such vascular events versus those who drank none.
While an initial assumption may be that those who drink diet sodas may constitute segments of society which are overweight and/or relatively unhealthy to begin with, the risk of vascular events persisted even after controlling for other lifestyle and diet–related disorders such as metabolic syndrome, vascular disease, and cardiac disease.
While this is the first study of its kind to show an association between diet soda and vascular events, previous studies have shown similar associations between diet–soda consumption and the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Compared with participants who did not drink diet soda, those who drank diet soda at least daily had a 36% greater relative risk for developing metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater relative risk for developing type 2 diabetes:
Such population–based studies, of course, don’t prove that these health effects are caused by diet soda, but they do give researchers reason to think about how these drinks may be affecting the metabolism in unexpected ways.
Though the researches associated with the above studies don’t posit hypotheses as to why diet sodas may be responsible for these outcomes, we believe that the effects of these drinks on magnesium status should be investigated.
Diet Sodas and Magnesium
Soft drinks commonly contain phosphorous in the form of phosphoric acid, and an increase in phosphorous intake is known to increase magnesium requirements. But phosphoric acid can be found in both diet and sugar–sweetened sodas, so clearly, some other factor is involved if diet sodas impart unique effects.
Of course, the most commonly-used sweetener in diet sodas is aspartame, which is a source of aspartic acid – a substance which is very likely to interfere with the actions of magnesium and/or upset magnesium balance.
We’ve seen in other articles that aspartic acid/aspartate stimulates cellular receptors (N–methyl D–aspartate or NMDA receptors) in the brain, nervous system, and vascular system. Magnesium, on the other hand, is needed to ensure that these receptors aren’t triggered excessively. Magnesium’s ability to prevent excessive NMDA receptor stimulation is likely to be largely responsible for magnesium’s wide–ranging health benefits including blood pressure control, and improvement in mood related disorders such as anxiety and depression.
It’s well–documented in the scientific literature that excess stimulation of the NMDA receptor is a major cause of the brain damage associated with stroke. Substances such as aspartate which trigger NMDA receptors are known as excitotoxins when they exert such damage.
Magnesium is a necessary mineral needed to ensure that NMDA receptor signaling is kept in check. Without sufficient magnesium, all manner of excitatory processes can spiral out of control. As relates to vascular health and stroke, studies have found associations between magnesium intake and risk of stroke in both men and women:
Study Link – Intake of Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, and Fiber and Risk of Stroke Among US Men.
Quote from the above study:
Intakes of calcium, potassium, and magnesium were each inversely associated with age– and smoking–adjusted relative risks of ischemic stroke, excluding embolic infarction of nonatherogenic origin.
Studies have also found that those with the highest cerebrospinal–fluid magnesium levels (cerebrospinal–fluid magnesium levels are a better indicator of magnesium status than serum levels) suffer less damage from stroke than those with lower levels:
Quote from the above study:
The results confirm that there is a relationship between a low Mg+2 concentration in CSF during the first 48 h after onset of ischaemic stroke and the intensity of the neurological deficit.
Does Aspartame Deplete Magnesium?
Substances or stressors which cause the stimulation of NMDA receptors may place a drain on the body’s magnesium stores. For example, some evidence suggests that the consumption of aspartate/aspartame may alter magnesium levels in various tissues:
Quote from the above study:
The present results have shown that aspartame administration influences the balance of magnesium in the organism, since in some organs and tissues (heart, lungs, kidneys, adrenals, jejunum, hair and blood) it is accumulated, while other organs (liver and testes) are deprived of it.
It seems very likely that chronic aspartame consumption may lead to magnesium depletion – thus opening the door to numerous disorders associated with magnesium deficiency. Depression, anxiety, overweight, obesity, diabetes (and the related symptom of elevated blood lipids), high blood pressure, neurological disorders, cancer, heart attack, and stroke are all disorders which have been independently associated with both aspartame consumption and magnesium deficiency.
In all likelihood, a gradual worsening of magnesium status wouldn’t manifest in the short–term toxicity studies which are used to test food ingredients such as aspartame. Those who maintain that aspartame has been “proven safe” often fail to recognize this simple fact. Similarly, if aspartame causes an increased incidence of the above–mentioned disorders (i.e., obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke), it’s unlikely that aspartame would be implicated as a causative factor – these disorders are so common and so multifaceted, that the effects of a single dietary substance are easy to ignore.
But the fact remains that not only is magnesium woefully lacking from our modern diet, there may also be many modern dietary ingredients such as aspartame, which actually place a further drain on our magnesium levels. To ignore this fact, and to pretend that aspartame is an innocuous substance in light of the existing research, seems short–sighted to say the least.
Sub–optimal magnesium levels are a common thread running through some of the most epidemic disorders of modern society – and even those who don’t consume aspartame aren’t immune. Even by conservative estimates, over two–thirds of Americans fail to consume the recommended intake of magnesium each day. For these reasons, we at Integrated Supplements are dedicated to educating the world on the importance of supplementation with bioavailable forms of magnesium which are well–absorbed, safe, and effective.
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