Diet drinks can lead to stroke, dementia

DIET drinks, once thought as a good alternative to sugary drinks to reduce diabetes and obesity, may actually put you at a greater risk of stroke and dementia, new research has found.

Age, smoking, diet quality, and other factors were taken into account, but preexisting conditions such as diabetes could not be controlled for.

His long-term observational study is not pointing to a cause and effect relationship, just a trend linking diet drinks to stroke and dementia. People who are obese are more likely to have cardiovascular disease, and drink more diet soda.

The team found that people who drink at least two sugary drinks a day are more likely to suffer from several brain deficiencies and face a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. According to the study published in Stroke, after adjusting for age, sex, education, calorie intake, and other factors, there was an "increased risk" of stroke, and "all-causes dementia".

"Research into dietary factors is very complex and there are a number of issues that need clarifying, for example, why drinks sweetened with sugar were not associated with an increased risk in this study, and teasing out links between all types of sugary drinks, diabetes and dementia".

"It was somewhat surprising that diet soda consumption led to these outcomes", says Pase, noting that while prior studies have linked diet soda intake to stroke risk, the link with dementia was not previously known.

Diet soda drinkers looking to save on calories could be doing themselves a disservice.

"This article provides further evidence though on artificially sweetened beverages and their possible effects on vascular health, including stroke and dementia", said Dr. Ralph Sacco, professor and chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, about the new study. Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage a day more than doubled (2.47%) the risk of dementia. He believes that "ethnic preferences" may influence a person's choice of sugary or artificially-sweetened soft drinks. Diet soda does not case stroke.

Dermody of the American Beverage Association emphasised this point: "The authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not-and cannot-prove cause and effect". Experts say more work needs to be done to confirm their theory.

"Thus, the primary concern is, 'Have more water and have less eating routine pop", Christopher Gardner, executive of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in an AHA discharge.

"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", said lead researcher Matthew Pase.

For its part, the American Beverage Association said in a statement that artificially sweetened drinks are safe.

  • Joanne Flowers