Diet drinks daily could raise stroke risk says study

New evidence shows that consuming two or more cans of diet drinks like diet coke everyday could be linked to a raised risk of dying young due to stroke or heart disease. Experts warn the public against regular consumption of such artificially sweetened drinks. The results of the study were published in the latest issue of the journal Stroke.

Image Credit: Evan Lorne / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Evan Lorne / Shutterstock

Research shows that consuming just two diet drinks or artificially sweetened drinks per day can raise the risk of stroke by a quarter (23 percent) and risk of heart disease by a third (29 percent). The risk of early death among diet drink consumers is 16 percent more than those who do not take such drinks, the study reveals.

Lead author of the study, Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York said, “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet. 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.”

This new study primarily focuses on women and the effects of these sweetened low calorie drinks on their heart health. A total of 81,714 post-menopausal women were included in the study and all of them were 50 to 79 years of age at the start of the study. Their health and wellbeing was tracked and followed up for twelve years from the commencement of the study. A single serving of a diet drink was taken to be 355 ml write the researchers. At the end of three years, the women were asked to report on their consumption of diet drinks, low calorie, artificially sweetened colas, fruit drinks, sodas etc. over the previous three months.

The researchers reveal that some groups are at a greater risk of heart disease. Obese women for example who were taking diet drinks were at double the risk of stroke. African-American women too had a greater risk of stroke, the study reveals. Dr. Mossavar-Rahmani however adds a small caveat saying that it is unclear whether diet drinks are directly causing these early deaths or there are other lifestyle and diet factors contributing to these numbers. The results were adjusted to some of the other risk factors such as age, high blood pressure and smoking. He said, “We don't know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don't know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless.”

According to the latest recommendations from the American Heart Association there is no clear evidence yet that low-calorie sweetened beverages have an association with heart disease or stroke. This study however refutes the idea and experts warn that if an individual is looking to cut calories, they should switch to drinking water instead of diet drinks.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

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Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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