New Study Claims Sugary Drink Intake Linked to Retinal Vascular Changes in Kids
A recent study has allegedly linked sugary drink consumption to narrowed retinal blood vessels in children as young as age 12, raising concerns about the youths’ long-term cardiovascular health. Bamini Gopinath, et al., “Carbohydrate nutrition is associated with changes in the retinal vascular structure and branching pattern in children,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2012. Designed to determine whether high-glycemic index (high-GI), high-glycemic load (high-GL) or carbohydrate-laden diets could lead to small vessel dysfunction, the study selected 12-year-old students from 21 schools to undergo “detailed eye examinations” measuring retinal vessel caliber and fractal dimension, that is, “the single ‘global’ measure of the branching pattern of retinal blood vessels as a whole.” In particular, the study noted that narrower arteriolar caliber and wider venular caliber have been associated with incident hypertension and CVD [cardiovascular disease], whereas fractal dimension has been associated with higher blood pressure, acute lacunar stroke and coronary artery disease mortality.
Children who reported consuming soft drinks once or more per day apparently “had significantly narrower mean retinal arterioles… than did those who never or rarely consumed soft drinks.” In addition, for girls only, “a higher-GI diet was associated with narrower retinal arterioles,” while “carbohydrate intake and a high-GL diet were associated with greater retinal fractal dimension.” As the study thus concluded, “Because these subtle retinal microvascular signs have shown to be markers of future CVD risk, the presence of this risk factor in children could support the need for health dietary patterns that include less consumption of high-GI foods and soft drinks.”