For the first time, a study has found strong evidence that the consumption of diet sodas, which contain artificial sweeteners, greatly increases the chances for having a stroke or developing dementia. For participants in the study, men and women equally, drinking one or more diet soda per day increased the risk of these fatal health complications by three.
People have long believed diet sodas to be more “healthy” than regular ones because they are lower in calories and use artificial sweeteners instead of regular sugar. Although the American Beverage Association (ABS) has claimed that no research has found low calorie, artificial sweeteners to be unsafe or damaging to one’s health, this new study’s data seems to argue otherwise. With some studies counting over 86% of the American population as drinking diet sodas, it is certainly an important point to examine.
As a result of the study’s findings, doctors have agreed future investigations need to be conducted comprehensively, and that the link between diet sodas and the damage they inflict upon the human brain must be further examined. The study was published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association (AHA). Although doctors found that when people drank one or more diet sodas per day that they were at three times the risk for developing dementia or having a stroke than the non-diet soda drinking population, the exact reason behind the relationship is not yet fully understood.
Doctors observed thousands of participants for over than ten years, evaluating whether members of the group above 65-years-old had developed dementia or if those in the group under 45 had experienced a stroke. The people that drank one or more diet sodas a day were at an increased risk for having an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage in the blood vessels. The chances of developing dementia, for which the risk factors are often difficult to identify, were also three times as high.
Shortly after the study was published, the ABS issued a statement on artificial sweeteners, urging consumers to be aware that they are indeed “safe for consumption”. But the ABS has a financial stake in wanting consumers to keep buying soda products, and its statement is concerning considering that sweeteners have been a culprit in the past. Reports of artificial sweeteners contributing to heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart failure have all been mentioned before. Although the exact reason behind the unhealthiness of artificial sweeteners has not yet been cemented in stone, much information seems to point towards it being unbeneficial to our health.
For these reasons, some interpret the study as a warning to Americans to be careful about what they eat and drink. For example, senior director at the Alzheimer’s Association says that although consumers might know that diet sodas aren’t great for their health in general, now they might know they are particularly bad for their brains and exercise caution and moderation. As always, when it comes to any diet or lifestyle questions, consulting directly with a healthcare professional is advisable.
According to the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, the recommendation is to drink a diet soda here and there instead of daily. Although diet sodas offer the benefit of fewer calories and less guilt, they could be causing other serious and dangerous health problems, as only future investigation will tell.
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