One diet drink per day ‘raises risk of a stroke’
ADULTS who down diet drinks each day are at three times the risk of stroke or dementia, according to research out today.
The study of almost 4,400 adults also suggests sugary beverages have no such link to ill health.
The scientists involved believe artificial sweeteners including aspartame and saccharine may affect blood vessels, eventually triggering strokes and dementia. No cause and effect was shown however. The study, which covered a period of ten years, was carried out by the Boston University School of Medicine.
‘It shows a need to put more research into this area given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages,’ said Matthew Pase, senior fellow in the Department of Neurology.
‘Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option. We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages.
‘In our study, 3% of the people had a new stroke and 5% developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia.’
For the study – published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke – researchers looked at 4,372 adults over the age of 45. The results showed that adults who had one or more diet drink a day were 2.9 times more likely to develop dementia and three times more at risk of a stroke than those who drank virtually none. Researchers at Imperial College London reported in January that diet drinks were no better at aiding weight loss than sugary options. The authors suggested that the products were encouraging obesity by triggering sugar receptors in the brain, making us crave sweet food.
Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, said: ‘Limiting added sugars is an important strategy to support good nutrition and healthy body weights, and until we know more, people should use artificially sweetened drinks cautiously.
‘They may have a role for people with diabetes and in weight loss, but we encourage people to drink water, low-fat milk or other beverages without added sweeteners.’
The researchers are still not sure whether diet drinks are causing strokes or dementia, or whether those who consume them are at higher risk anyway.
Previous studies have shown they tend to be consumed by adults who are already overweight or obese. Dr Rosa Sancho, who specialises in Alzheimer’s research, said: ‘As people are becoming more aware of the consequences of a high-sugar diet, many are turning to artificiallysweetened diet fizzy drinks as an alternative to those with sugar.
‘This interesting new study has pointed to higher rates of dementia in people who drink more artificially-sweetened drinks, but it doesn’t show that these drinks are the cause of this altered risk.
‘Future studies will need to confirm these findings in other groups, and explore what might be underlying any link.’
Unhealthy? Diet soft drinks