- A large-scale study into post-menopausal women has found a link between consuming two or more artificially sweetened diet sodas or juices per day and increased risk of heart attacks, clot-based strokes, and earlier death.
- The researchers note that they cannot prove causation, and the results may not be applicable to younger women or men.
- Limiting consumption of diet beverages is recommended by experts.
The latest research, however, claims that consuming diet sodas and juices is linked to a higher risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as a higher risk of dying early from any cause.
A large-scale study of women over the age of 50 by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association found that drinking two or more artificially sweetened drinks per day was linked to having an increased risk of heart attacks, clot-based strokes and early death.
The study, published in Stroke, involved over 80,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 and found that drinking two or more diet drinks (one serving being 335ml) a day increased a woman’s chance of stroke by 23% compared to women who consumed less than one a week.
The women who drank more of the artificially sweetened drinks were also found to be 29% more likely to develop heart disease and 16% more likely to die from any cause during the 12-year trial.
The health risks were found to be higher in certain sub-sets of women: those who were obese, African-American, or without previous heart disease or diabetes.
The researchers adjusted for various stroke risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, and smoking, and point out that the results may not be applicable to men or younger women.
Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study and an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet.
“Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”
She continued: “We don’t know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don’t know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless.”
The researchers note that they cannot say drinking diet drinks directly causes these consequences, mainly because the study was observational and relied on participants’ own reporting, but they say the link is worth noting.
“Unfortunately, current research simply does not provide enough evidence to distinguish between the effects of different low-calorie sweeteners on heart and brain health,” said Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition emeritus, University of Vermont and the chair of the writing group for the American Heart Association’s science advisory, Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages and Cardiometabolic Health.
“This study adds to the evidence that limiting use of diet beverages is the most prudent thing to do for your health.
“The American Heart Association suggests water as the best choice for a no-calorie beverage. However, for some adults, diet drinks with low calorie sweeteners may be helpful as they transition to adopting water as their primary drink.
“Since long-term clinical trial data are not available on the effects of low-calorie sweetened drinks and cardiovascular health, given their lack of nutritional value, it may be prudent to limit their prolonged use.”