One diet drink per day ‘raises risk of a stroke’

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By So­phie Bor­land

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

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