For some people, there’s nothing like a crisp can of diet cola on a warm day: the satisfying noise when you pull the tab, the refreshing fizz that dances on your tongue, the sweet, delicious flavour.
And best of all - it’s calorie- and sugar-free so you needn’t feel bad about drinking it, right?
It’s nothing new that diet fizzy drinks aren’t good for us, but a new study has confirmed just how unhealthy they are.
According to a study of 4,372 adults by Boston University, diet fizzy drinks are more likely to cause strokes and dementia than sugary alternatives.
In fact, adults who drink one can of diet soda a day are three times more at risk, the researchers found.
It’s all down to an ingredient called aspartame, which is used in most diet drinks to sweeten them.
Aspartame, as well as other artificial sweeteners including saccharine, has been found to constrict blood vessels, which can ultimately cause dementia and strokes.
The 4,372 participants were all aged over 45 and their food and drink intakes were measured for ten years.
Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list
Extreme Diets: The Eating Habits of the The A-list
1/14 The Grapefruit Diet
This golden oldie has been around since the 1930s and was a favourite among classic Hollywood stars, like Marilyn Monroe. It involves eating half a grapefruit before every meal and is based on the idea that grapefruits contain a fat-burning enzyme that boosts the metabolism.
2/14 The Air Diet
Based on the French concept of breatharianism, the idea that air alone can keep our bodies active, the air diet involves sitting in front of food, placing a piece onto a fork, holding it up to your mouth… But not eating it. Instead, you are to subsist on water and salt soup only. Madonna is apparently a fan of pretend eating.
3/14 The ‘Liquids Only’ Master Cleanse Diet
She did look good in Dream Girls, didn’t she? But the lengths Beyoncé went to to achieve her svelte frame were a tad extreme. Instead of solid foods, she survived on liquids – famously a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water – for 14 days. Apparently, this helps to detoxify the body (a process it actually does every day, naturally and unaided by weird diets) and stimulates tissue growth. The dieter is also encouraged to drink laxative tea twice a day. Glamorously.
4/14 The Ice Diet
Renee Zellweger apparently fills up on ice to stop her piling on the pounds from non-water based foods. Which is, of course, totally ridiculous.
5/14 The Watercress Soup Diet
Liz Hurley once revealed that she regularly subsists on a six-cup-a-day diet of watercress soup when she wants to lose weight for a role. The low-calorie leafy green is also a diuretic, helping to combat water retention. It’s also a completely mental thing to do.
6/14 Placenta Pill Diet
When January Jones gave birth to her son Xander, she had her placenta dried and crushed and stuffed into pills, that she then took as a supplement to lose weight. No idea if it worked or not, but it successfully made us feel queasy reading about it.
7/14 The Victoria’s Secret Angel Diet
If you’re crazy – and, you know, called Adriana Lima or something – then this diet, usually undertaken nine days before a runway show, is for you. It involves omitting all solid foods entirely and subsisting only on protein shakes, supplements and vitamins. You also have to work out twice a day, consult a nutritionist, and, 12 hours before a show, stop drinking liquids entirely to drain the excess fluids from your body and dehydrate as much as possible.
8/14 The Baby Food Diet
Yep. No real food. Just baby food. And 14 jars of the pap a day at that. Jennifer Aniston loves it. Allegedly. As (also allegedly) does Reese Witherspoon.
9/14 The Drunk Diet
This was invented by Lady Gaga, who once eschewed her evening meals for a swig of whiskey – but adhered to a strict exercise plan, even when hung over.
10/14 The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Drinking apple cider before every meal seems like a terrible idea. But Megan Fox does it as a metabolism booster, which helps to rid the body of excess water weight and burn calories faster. Apparently.
11/14 The Seven-Day Colour Diet
This diet, apparently beloved by Christina Aguilera, at least has some nutritional merit. In order to get the correct balance of nutrients, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables across the colour spectrum is a wise idea. But the Seven-Day Colour Diet says you should only eat one colour of food per day of the week. Monday = white food. Tuesday = red food. Wednesday = green food and so forth. Bonkers.
12/14 The Cabbage Soup Diet
Does what it says on the tin. You can apparently consume unlimited supplies of cabbage soup (lucky you), as well as some low calorie fruit and vegetables. Sarah Michelle Gellar is apparently an advocate.
13/14 The Grapefruit Oil Diet
Not to be confused with The Grapefruit Diet, this involves sniffing grapefruit oil in the vain hope that the aroma alone might trigger liver enzymes into calorie-burning, detoxifying gear. Jennifer Lopez is rumoured to partake in this lunacy.
14/14 The Macrobiotic Diet
Gwyneth Paltrow’s love of all things Macrobiotic is well documented. It involves a strict, mostly vegetarian plan with grains as the staple food, avoiding highly processed or refined foods and most animal products. She also has a 21-day GOOP cleanse, that involves eating just one meal a day and chewing each mouthful at least 13 times.
The study found that adults who had one or more diet drink a day were three times more at risk of strokes and 2.9 times more likely to develop dementia than those who drank practically none.
Matthew Pase, senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said: “Our study shows a need to put more research into this area given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages.
“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.”
Instead, they’re urging the public to stick to water or milk.
This latest study adds to previous research warning of the dangers of diet fizzy drinks - earlier this year, a study by Imperial College London concluded that they’re no better at helping people lose weight than sugary drinks.
For a while now people have known that drinking such drinks actually makes you crave more sweet things afterwards, but the latest findings stress just how serious the problems caused could be.
However it’s important to note that the study cannot conclude that anyone who drinks diet fizzy drinks will develop dementia or have a stroke.
“In our study, three percent of the people had a new stroke and five percent developed dementia, so we're still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia,” Pase explained.Reuse content