Diet Soft Drinks Can Increase Your Risks of Heart Attack, Stroke and Dementia, New Study Reveals

Are diet soda drinks sneakily worse for you than full-sugar soda? New research published in Stroke medical journal showed that diet drinks could more than double the risk of stroke for those who are obese. The study, published by lead author Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, stressed a link to developing conditions, but doesn't prove they are a direct cause.

"Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet," Mossavar-Rahmani said. "Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease."

In the study, researchers followed health outcomes of over 81,000 people, mostly white women ages 50 to 79, for almost 12 years. The women who drank more than two artificially sweetened beverages a day were described as more likely to be younger, obese smokers, do little exercise, eat a lower quality diet and have a history of diabetes, heart disease or heat attack.

Researchers concluded that the women who drank more than two diet drinks a day had a 16 to 31 percent higher risk or chance of having a stroke, heart disease or death from any cause.

While the researchers admitted that more research can still be done to better correlate diet drinks with stroke risk, the study is large enough and important enough to garner significant attention and possibly a more scientific methodology like a clinical trial studying the correlation.

Another study published in Medical News Daily suggests that consuming sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame can actually lead to greater feelings of hunger, which causes cravings for even more sweets.

Likewise, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital found that artificial sweeteners can cause people to give into cravings that could actually lead to binge eating, which could put you at higher risk of conditions like obesity and diabetes.

An April 2017 study involved 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60 and followed them for 12 years. In the end, researchers learned that those who drank at least one artificially sweetened drink per day were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke or develop dementia compared to those who drank less than one a week. Similar to the study published in Stroke, the findings showed only a correlation — not a causation — between stroke, dementia and diet sodas.

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While the findings do not offer concrete evidence that diet sodas or artificial sweeteners cause stroke and dementia, researchers involved in the studies do recommend drinking more water and less artificially sweetened beverages.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Staff / Getty

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