As much as we love our sweet drinks, we are all well aware of its adverse effects on our health. To combat this there have been numerous sugar-free drinks introduced in the market. And just when you thought switching to diet aerated beverages could help you combat the ill-effects, you may have to think again.
Researchers have reported that drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily has been found to be 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. Ischaemic strokes occur when blood cannot get to the brain because of a blockage, often one caused by a blood clot forming in either an artery leading to the brain or inside a vein in the brain itself.
For the study, the team analysed approximately 4,000 participants over the age of 30 and examined them using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and cognitive testing to measure the relationship between beverage intake and brain volumes as well as thinking and memory. They then monitored 2,888 participants age 45 and over for the development of a stroke and 1,484 participants age 60 and older for dementia for 10 years.
The results suggested that people, who more frequently consumed diet soda, were also more likely to be diabetic which is thought to increase the risk of dementia. However, even after excluding diabetics from the study, diet soda consumption was still associated with the risk of dementia. The researchers further suggested that people should be cautious about regularly consuming either diet sodas or sugary beverages.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimer’s disease,” the co-authors added. However, they admitted that they could not prove a causal link between intake of diet drinks and development of either medical condition because their study was merely observational and based on details people provided in questionnaires logging their food and drink habits.
This research does not show that artificially sweetened drinks cause dementia. But it does highlight a worrying association that requires further investigation. Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, warned consumers not to see low- or no-sugar drinks as healthy. “Don’t be fooled by the use of the word diet. Diet drinks were dreamed up as a description by an industry wanting to lull you into believing that it was a healthy thirst-quencher. Whether you’re thin or fat and thirsty, and not near a good old-fashioned tap, buy yourself bottled water".
Source: American Heart Association