A new study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, links diet soft drinks to an increased risk for stroke and dementia. Researchers studied more than 4,000 people over 45 who had filled out food-frequency questionnaires and had periodic health examinations between 1991 and 2001. The scientists tracked
their health over the next 10 years and found 97 cases of stroke and 81 cases of dementia.
The study sheds light only on an association, though, as the researchers were unable to determine an actual cause-and-effect relationship between sipping artificially sweetened drinks and an increased risk for stroke and dementia.
“More research is needed to study the health effects of diet drinks so that consumers can make informed choices concerning their health,” said Matthew Pase, a senior research fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the new study.
The study found that compared with those who did not drink diet soda, people who drank one to six artificially sweetened drinks a week had twice the risk of stroke. There were similar, although weaker, associations for dementia risk. The reasons for the link remain unknown.
The study adjusted for age, sex, education, physical activity, diabetes, smoking and many other characteristics that might affect the risks.