The quest to trim waistlines using artificial sweeteners could be backfiring, as researchers found artificially sweetened drinks like diet soda can increase a person's likelihood of stroke and dementia.
A study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke found a daily diet soda puts a person at three times the risk of dementia and stroke compared to someone who drinks less than one a week.
It's another blow to diet soda, which has been the subject of recent unflattering studies. Purdue University found in 2013 it doesn't actually help us lose weight. Another 2007 study discovered those who drink diet soda are no less at risk of heart disease than those who drink regular soda.
In fact, the Stroke study found drinking sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juice, doesn’t increase a person's risk of stroke and dementia. Researchers caution that's not a call to go buy sugary drinks, which Harvard has linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
"Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option," explained Dr. Matthew Pase, study author and a senior fellow at the Boston University School of Medicine. "We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages."
Over seven years, researchers studied thousands of people over the age of 45 from the area of Framingham, Mass., on their drinking and eating habits. Researchers followed-up a decade later to see who had experienced a stroke or dementia. The data was adjusted for a number of factors, including age, sex and caloric intake.
The study only tracked the trend between artificial sweetener consumers, dementia and stroke, but was unable to prove that drinking artificial drinks was the cause of the diseases.
Pase added the overall risk for dementia and stroke isn't staggering.
"Even if someone is three times as likely to develop stroke or dementia, it is by no means a certain fate," he said. "In our study, 3% of the people had a new stroke and 5% developed dementia, so we're still talking about a small number of people developing stroke or dementia."