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Diet drinks 'associated with dementia and stroke'

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
soda cans

21st April 2017 – Diet drinks are often chosen because people think they are better for their health. They may have fewer calories but a new US study has found having just one diet drink a day is possibly linked with both a higher risk of having a stroke and developing dementia.

However, experts have questioned the findings and say more work is needed to confirm any links.

Study

Over a period of 7 years, the researchers reviewed what people were drinking at three different points in time beginning in 1991.

In all 2,888 men and women over the age of 45 were analysed for the stroke part of the study and 1,484 people over the age of 60 for the dementia arm of the study.

The researchers then followed these people for the next 10 years to see who had a stroke or developed dementia and compared that with the information they'd provided about their soft drink consumption.

Findings

At the end of the 10 year follow up period there were:

  • 97 cases (3%) of stroke, 82 of which were ischaemic (caused by blocked blood vessels)
  • 81 cases (5%) of dementia, 63 of which were diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease

After making adjustments for various risk factors such as age and sex, the researchers found that drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage a day was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who had artificially sweetened drinks less than once a week.

The research has been published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

Study limitations

There were a number of limitations including the fact that most of the participants were white. Also, the findings did not distinguish between different types of artificial sweeteners and since the study ended a number of new sweeteners have come on the market.

The researchers of this long-term observational study recognise that more research into their findings is needed in case the trend is due to something other than artificially sweetened drinks.

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