If you’ve been reaching for a diet soft drink over a full sugared version because you thought it was healthier, you might want to think again.
A new study has linked artificially-sweetened beverages with an increased risk of stroke or dementia.
The research from Boston’s University School of Medicine found that people who consume at least one artificially-sweetened beverage a day were three times as likely to develop a ischemic stroke and 2.9 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease dementia.
Researchers looked at data on nearly 2900 people over the age of 45 for the stroke study, and almost 1500 people over age 60 for the dementia study. Their eating and drinking habits were recorded and then followed up after ten years. At the end of the study they found 97 cases of stroke and 81 cases of dementia, 63 of which were diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease.
“Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially sweetened beverages less than once a week,” the study said.
“After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), calorific intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischaemic stroke, all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.”
However, the researchers also added that while this does show an association or trend in a group of people, it wasn’t a direct cause-and-effect link.
“The jury is still out, and this just shows people need to be cautious,” said Matthew Pase, Ph.D., a fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine.
But the researchers don’t want you switching over to sugary soft drinks. Instead they’d prefer everyone to drink more water.
"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," Mr Pase said.