The growing body of evidence that suggest diet drinks are detrimental to health has just got a fillip from a new study by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. The finding is that drinking two or more of any kind of artificially sweetened drinks a day is linked to an increased risk of clot-based strokes, heart attacks and early death in women over 50. Previous research has shown a link between diet beverages and stroke, dementia, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
Compared with people who never touch them, the risk of early death is 16% higher for those who consume diet drinks. The research, published in the journal Stroke, included data from 81,714 post-menopausal women (who were ages 50 to 79 at the start of the study) and who were tracked for an average of 12 years. One serving of diet drink was regarded as 12 ounces (nearly 355ml).
Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study at 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.”
More than 80,000 post-menopausal US women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term national study, were asked how often they drank one 12-fluid-ounce serving of diet beverage over the previous three months. Their health outcomes were tracked for an average of 11.9 years. If previous studies focused on the bigger picture of cardiovascular disease, the newly published study focused on the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke and its subtypes, one of which was small-vessel blockage. After controlling for lifestyle factors, the study found that women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened beverages each day were 31% more likely to have a clot-based stroke, 29% more likely to have heart disease and 16% more likely to die from any cause than women who drank diet beverages less than once a week or not at all.
The analysis then looked at women with no history of heart disease and diabetes, which are key risk factors for stroke. African-American women without a previous history of heart or diabetes were about four times as likely to have a clot-based stroke. White women were 1.3% as likely to have coronary heart disease. The study also looked at various subtypes of ischemic stroke, which doctors use to determine treatment and medication choices. They found that small-artery occlusion, a common type of stroke caused by blockage of the smallest arteries inside the brain, was nearly two-and-a-half times more common in women who had no heart disease or diabetes but were heavy consumers of diet drinks.
Dr Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition emeritus at the University of Vermont, was of the view that the study adds to the evidence that limiting use of diet beverages is the most prudent thing to do for one’s health. The American Heart Association has stated that water is the best no-calorie drink. Another study warned the drinks can increase the risk of diabetes.
The safest option is to drink water, it goes without saying.
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