Adults who have at least one diet drink a day are three times more at risk from a stroke or dementia, research shows today. Scientists say they should no longer be regarded as the healthier alternative and urge the public to stick to water or milk.
Their study of almost 4,400 adults also suggests diet drinks are more likely to cause strokes and dementia than those full of sugar. There was no link between sugary beverages and either of the illnesses – although the researchers aren’t encouraging us to drink them either.
The team of scientists from Boston University believe the artificial sweeteners including aspartame and saccharine maybe affecting the blood vessels, eventually triggering strokes and dementia.
Diet drinks account for a quarter of the sweetened beverages market but there is growing evidence they are not as healthy as previously thought. A major review in January by Imperial College London researchers found they were no better at aiding weight loss than full fat drinks.
In fact the authors suggested they were encouraging obesity by triggering the sugar receptors in the brain, making us crave sweet food. In this latest study – published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke – researchers looked at 4,372 adults over the age of 45.
They had filled in detailed questionnaires on their food and drink intake in the 1990s and were then tracked for ten years.
The results showed that adults who had one or more diet drink a day were 2.9 times more likely to develop dementia and 3 times more at risk of strokes compared to those who virtually none at all.
Matthew Pase, senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said: ‘Our study shows a need to put more research into this area given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages.
‘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.