You’ve probably seen the reports that tied diet sodas and other artificially sweetened drinks to a higher risk of stroke and dementia. That study, published by the American Heart Association’s Stroke, also found no correlation between real sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice and fruit drinks.
But researchers were unable to determine a direct cause and effect, making the study – and ensuing headlines – a bit controversial.
The researchers studied more than 4,000 people older than 45 for 10 years, tracking their diet soda intake through food frequency questionnaires. Of these 4,000 people, 97 had a stroke and 81 developed dementia; that’s less than a three-percent rate of new strokes and a five-percent rate of dementia.
It should be noted people who drink diet soda were also more likely to have diabetes than the group that did not consume diet drinks. Diabetes has also been associated with stroke and dementia. Some recent additional research suggests that artificial sweeteners may contribute to insulin resistance, a major factor in type 2 diabetes.
The authors of the study admit their investigation does not support the claim that consumption of diet soda is a causal factor in stroke and dementia, but does support a correlation between the two. It’s part of a growing body of evidence that suggests artificial sweeteners may have unintended negative consequences.
The mainstay of stroke prevention remains a low-calorie diet, exercise, avoidance of tobacco products, and modification of risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Does drinking diet soda mean you’re going to have a stroke? No. But drinking more water and avoiding sugary and artificially sweetened beverages is better for your overall health.
May is Stroke Awareness Month. Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot or ruptures. The part of the brain where a stroke occurs determines which, if any, particular bodily function will have issues. According to the American Stroke Association, 80-percent of strokes are preventable; regularly checking and lowering your blood pressure reduces the risk of stroke.