Led by Dr Matthew Pase, a Boston University School of Medicine neurologist, the study showed that there may be a connection between diet soft drinks and both stroke and dementia.
The study suggests that people who drink diet beverages daily are three times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia versus people who drink it once a week or less.
“This included a higher risk of ischaemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia,” Dr Pase said.
It should be noted that the research does not suggest that diet drinks cause these medical conditions, rather that there is a correlation between higher consumption and likeliness to have a stroke or dementia.
The study, which spanned over 10 years, looked at 2,888 people over the age of 45 for the development of a stroke and 1,484 over the age of 60 for dementia.
The study saw that those who reported consuming at least one artificially sweetened drink a day, compared to less than one a week, were 2.96 times as likely to have an ischaemic stroke, caused by blood vessel blockage, and 2.89 times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Though Dr Pase explains that diet drinks “might not be a healthy alternative” and his study showed that there was greater risk, the absolute numbers showed that there was only a slight increase. Only 3% of the people had a new stroke and 5% developed dementia.
Before giving up on all diet drinks, it should also be noted that there were limitations in the study details. For example, most of the participants were white, and there is a possibility that ethnicity plays a role in the risk of developing particular medical conditions.
The consumption habits of diet drinks is also very different to their non-diet counterparts – people do not drink sugary beverages as often as diet ones, which some people drink daily.
Dr Pase suggests that the reason regular drinks might not have had such an effect was because participants may have been more cautious with drinking sugary drinks, something that diet drink consumers do not consider.
Dr Pase warned that though people should be cautious, more research still needs to be done. And by no means does this suggest that regular drinks are better than diet ones.
The conclusions made surround more around the frequency and consumption of sugary and diet drinks. The best suggestion would be to drink less diet drinks and instead consume more water.