Consuming two or more diet drinks per day 'could increase risk of stroke and heart disease'

It seems low-calorie alternatives might not be better for you after all

Sarah Young
Friday 15 February 2019 11:38 GMT
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Drinking more than two diet drinks every day could increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and even early death, a new study suggests.

The research, which was carried out by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, observed more than 80,000 women in the US for an average of 12 years.

The study found that participants who consumed two or more diet drinks a day – including fizzy and fruit-based drinks – saw a 23 per cent increase in their risk of stroke compared to those who consumed less than one a week, or none at all.

The drinks were also found to increase a person's chances of heart disease by 29 per cent, while 16 per cent were more likely to die prematurely.

Further analysis showed that obesity played a role too, with overweight participants having more than double the stroke risk. African-American women also had a higher risk of stroke.

Dr Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said: “Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet.

“Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”

Speaking to The Independent, Mossavar-Rahmani confirmed that, while this study looked specifically at the effects of diet drinks on women, others have shown similar results in men.

"We did the study on the Women’s Health Initiative which consists of a well characterised group of post-menopausal women," she said.

"Other studies such as the Framingham Offspring Cohort did see association of diet drinks with increased risk of stroke in men and women - so this association has also been seen in men."

Despite the findings, the authors stressed the study could not definitely prove cause and effect between diet drinks and health problems.

This is because the study was observational, meaning it was based on women’s own reports about their consumption, and did not look into individual artificial sweeteners in drinks.

“We don’t know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don’t know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless,” Mossavar-Rahmani added.

In response to the study, The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) said past reviews commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found “no evidence that low calorie sweeteners could cause or increase the risk of cardiovascular disease″.

“It is important to highlight that, before being approved for use on the market, low calorie sweeteners are thoroughly tested and regulatory bodies around the world have consistently confirmed their safety and the lack of any negative health effect,” it told The Huffington Post UK.

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