Why you should put that diet drink down

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The consumption of diet drinks can increase the risk of a deadly stroke, according to a new study. Photo / Brett Phibbs

If you're partial to a can of Pepsi Max at lunch, or enjoy a splash of Coke Zero with your favourite rum — you might want to put that drink back on ice.

According to a new study, just one diet drink a day can triple the risk of a deadly stroke, with researchers also finding the beverages have a "worrying association" with dementia.

The team of researchers from Boston's University School of Medicine, said people who consume a can of artificially-sweetened soft drink a day were at three times the risk of suffering the most common form of stroke compared to non-drinkers.

The US study also indicated that diet soft drink fans were 2.9 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's. But after accounting for all lifestyle factors, the researchers found the link to dementia was statistically insignificant, however, the impact on stroke risk remained.

The study, which looked at ten years' worth of data from more than 4300 people, indicates that people need to look beyond the word 'diet' when making drink choices.

"Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially sweetened beverages less than once a week," the research read, which was published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

"After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), calorific intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischaemic stroke, all-cause dementia and Alzheimer's disease dementia."

The research, surprisingly, went against previous studies by finding that sugared drinks did not raise the risk of either stroke or dementia.

"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 admitted that despite the study, they could not prove a causal link between intake of diet drinks and development of either medical condition because their study was merely observational and based on details people provided in questionnaires logging their food and drink habits.

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