Gloomy New Study Links Diet Sodas to Heart and Brain Diseases

“So, the bottom line is, ‘Have more water and have less diet soda, ” he said.

Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with nearly three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially-sweetened beverages less than once a week, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

“The jury is still out, and this just shows people need to be cautious, ” said Matthew Pase, Ph.D., a fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and an investigator at the Framingham Heart Study.

Diet soda's bad reputation is about to get worse: two new studies say that the faux sugary substance may actually increase your risk of dementia and stroke.

"When the authors controlled for hypertension and diabetes and obesity the effects diminish, which implies that some of the effects of artificially sweetened beverages could still be going through a vascular pathway", he said about the new study.

For the stroke analysis, the researchers excluded participants with prevalent stroke or other significant neurological disease at baseline and those who were younger than 45 years old.

However, the researchers stressed that while their findings do not prove that diet sodas and sugary drinks directly caused the patterns of brain damage observed, the findings confirm long-held suspicions that people who drink sweetened sodas regularly are at greater risk of brain-related health complications. The researchers reviewed this information at three different points in time over a period of seven years.

American researchers have examined the effects of light beverages on health, particularly brain health. They do not prove any causal link between the consumption of artificially sweetened drinks and stroke or dementia. Diabetics, as a group, drink more diet soda on average, as a way to limit their sugar consumption, and some of the correlation between diet soda intake and dementia may be due to diabetes, as well as other vascular risk factors.

"To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimer's disease", the co-authors added.

The researchers found that people who constantly drank sugary drinks have poorer memory and smaller brain volumes.

The scientists said sugary drinks shouldn't be seen as a "healthier option" to full-fat versions - and urged people to switch to water or unsweetened drinks instead.

Other recent studies have found health risks that appear to be linked to diet fizzy drinks, such as a link between diet drinks and the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Participants reported their eating and drinking habits by responding to food frequency questionnaires.

"As the consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks is increasing in the community, along with the prevalence of stroke and dementia, future research is needed", they added.

And little is known about the long-term effect of sugary drinks on the human brain.

"I think the idea that the food that we take for granted might have health risks is really a fundamental concept", said Dr. Alan Lerner, the Director of Brain Health & Memory.

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