Do non-alcoholic or energy drinks increase risk of progressive retinal disease? | Health - Hindustan Times
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Diabetic eye: Do non-alcoholic or energy drinks increase the risk of progressive retinal disease? Doctors answer

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Sep 09, 2022 08:34 AM IST

Of late, the consumption of energy drinks has been on the rise among the younger population. Doctors reveal whether non-alcoholic drinks are a ‘healthier’ alternative to sugary soft drinks or associated with increased odds of severe diabetic eye complications

Of late, the consumption of energy drinks also has been on the rise among the younger population and caffeine, a major content of these, is said to reduce choroidal thickness and blood-flow in the eye leading to a risk of retinal degeneration. The American Psychiatric Association doesn't recognise addictions to artificial sweeteners or diet soda but plenty of people have tried, and failed, to give them up although studies suggest such detrimental effects with overconsumption, minor indulgences may not harm.

Diabetic eye: Do non-alcoholic or energy drinks increase the risk of progressive retinal disease? Doctors answer (Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash)
Diabetic eye: Do non-alcoholic or energy drinks increase the risk of progressive retinal disease? Doctors answer (Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash)

Non-Alcoholic beverages have become the usual accompaniment with meals worldwide that is by and large, a result of shift in consumption from fresh food and drinks to ultra-processed products due to heavy marketing strategies opted by the industry. Numbers suggest that worldwide consumption of soft drinks was around 43.15 litres per person per year in 2010 and these figures have been exponentially increasing ever since, especially among the younger population.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shashi Prabha Prasad, Professor and HOD, Department of Ophthalmology at Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, highlighted, “What makes non-alcoholic drinks so palatable is the combination of spices and intense sweet taste of the sweeteners either in the form of sugars or artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Moreover, these are served in perfectly cooled carbonated cans making for a very satisfying drink.”

She added, “As most soft drinks contain sugar in alarmingly large quantities, they are responsible for people over consuming sugars and that has been the major cause of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity which have already reached a state of epidemics. Recent studies suggest these sugars have been related to accumulation of AGEs (Advanced glycosylated end-products) which associate with a 50% increase in the risk of a disease called Age Related Macular Degeneration.”

According to a recent study from 2018, more than four cans a week of sweetened drinks can lead to serious health hazards including diabetic retinopathy because a consistently high blood sugar level can damage vessels which deliver blood to the retina. Even a “healthier” alternative - aspartame, used as artificial sweetener has been reported to cause destruction of inner layers of the retina.

Dr Avnish Deshmukh, Senior Consultant at Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals, cautioned, “Non-alcoholic drink isn’t necessarily a ‘healthier’ alternative to sugary soft drinks and now a small-scale study shows high consumption of these drinks might actually be associated with increased odds of severe diabetic eye complications. Let’s start with this. We know that eyes originate from brain tissue, so the anatomy of the eyes is an extension of our brain. Also, the retina has one of the highest metabolic needs of the human body and the macula has the highest metabolic need of the retina.”

He explained, “When we drink non-alcoholic drinks, it throws off our metabolic processes, it lowers our antioxidant levels and some researchers have found that it shrinks the brain. Simply, when we drink non alcoholic drinks, we are more susceptible to conditions like ADHD, kidney issues, respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes and even dementia. According to some study, consumption of soda for more than four cans a week can lead to diabetes which can further lead to a condition known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.”

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and an ophthalmologist describe the condition as being “caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye”. Dr Avnish Deshmukh pointed out, “If it left undiagnosed and untreated, this eye condition can lead to permanent blindness; something which can be avoided if those with diabetes take precautions. This includes ensuring blood sugar levels and their cholesterol are at safe and healthy levels and attending diabetic eye screening appointments, these are normally offered to diabetics over the age of 14.”

He suggested trying some alternatives to non-alcoholic drinks to keep yourself healthy and fit:

1. Bone Broth

2. Lemon water

3. Kombucha

4. Green tea

5. Healthy smoothies (ginger, turmeric, beets, cucumbers, celery, kale, coconut water, maca powder)

So get off the non alcoholic drink, it’s not good for your eye health!

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