RALEIGH, N.C. — Over the last decade there has been a lot of research about the health risks associated with sugary drinks.
Previous research has linked consumption of diet sodas to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even early death. Now, two new studies suggest that even diet drinks may have significant health risks and could increase your risk for stroke and dementia.
In the study, researchers evaluated the eating and drinking habits of thousands of patients. They looked at data on nearly 2,900 people over the age of 45 for the stroke study and almost 1,500 people over age 60 for the dementia study. They followed them for 10 years and found that those who consumed diet sodas (at least one a day) were three times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia as compared to those who did not drink diet sodas.
Many of the artificial sweeteners that are included in diet sodas are actually very potent—many times sweeter than sugar. This can actually cause us to crave even more sugar and can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
In addition, it may be that those who choose to drink diet sodas are already suffering from other medical problems such as obesity and diabetes—putting them at higher risk for stroke—for example. More research in this area is certainly needed.
First of all, it is important to note that this study did not prove cause and effect but it did suggest a strong negative association between drinking diet soda and negative health consequences. Previous studies have shown other negative impacts of diet drinks as well.
However, I would encourage people to drink water, low-fat milk or other beverages without added sweeteners as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. As always, exercise and good food choices can make a big difference in your overall health.