Observational study indicates correlation between diet drinks, stroke and dementia rates
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A study on diet drinks is raising questions about the benefits and the risks, especially when it comes to stroke and dementia or memory loss.
The information in the study looking at diet drinks came from a larger project by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
It analyzed, in two different age groups, how many drinks with sugar and how many drinks with artificial sweeteners those people consumed for ten years.
Then they compared stroke and dementia rates. Here is what they found:
People in the study who took in at least one artificially sweetened drink a day were associated with having a slightly higher stroke and dementia rates in those of younger ages when compared to people in the same group who did not consume those drinks.
Those who had one to six of artificially sweetened drinks a week were also slightly more likely to have a stroke, but not dementia.
It is important with this study to go beyond the headlines because even when there is an association with something, that does not necessarily mean there's a cause and effect.
Dr. Gaurang Gandhi of the TriHealth Heart Institute said that it's important also to consider that some people who drink beverages with artificial sweeteners are doing this because they are at risk for hardening of the arteries which is linked to both stroke and possibly dementia.
“People who have risk for developing for blockage in the arteries are at risk for stroke, so high blood pressure, diabetes… this is a study that shows there is a chance, but it doesn't prove that by drinking diet soda or any other artificial sweetener other than sugar leads to increase dementia or stroke,” said Dr. Gandhi.
The Calorie Control Council also was quick to state an agreement with Dr. Gandhi, saying the study observed people but that no and low-calorie sweeteners do not represent a risk to Americans.
“What I tell my patients is risk versus benefits,” said Dr. Gandhi.
In other words, you always have to choose if the sugar in a drink is going to give you extra calories and that might put you at risk for another health problem.
So, that means you always have to think of calories and sugar like money, if you need to reduce sugar because you have diabetes, then giving up diet drinks might put you at risk for other serious complications such as kidney disease or blindness.
So ask your health care provider what's best for you, based on your personal health history.
And remember, water is calorie-free!