NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) – Much has been written about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages; research has linked sugary drinks to a number of serious health risks, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and an early death.
Now, new research suggests diet drinks with artificial sweeteners may have some health concerns of their own.
According to a new study published Thursday in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, people who drank at least one artificially-sweetened beverage a day had almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia.
The researchers caution that the study only shows an association — it does not prove that diet drinks actually cause stroke or dementia. Still, they say the study warrants more research in the area.
The study did not find the same link between stroke and dementia in people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages, but the authors say that does’t mean it’s time for people to start gulping those either.
“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,” Matthew Pase, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “We recommend that people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages.”
The researchers analyzed data on nearly 2,900 people over the age of 45 for the stroke study and almost 1,500 people over age 60 for the dementia study.
The participants recorded their eating and drinking habits in questionnaires. The researchers reviewed this information at three different points in time over a period of seven years. They then followed up with the participants for the next 10 years to see who developed stroke or dementia and then compared dietary habits to the risk of developing these health problems.
At the end of the follow-up period, the researchers found 97 cases of stroke, 82 of which were ischemic (caused by blockage of blood vessels), and 81 cases of dementia, 63 of which were diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.