People who consume at least one glass of diet drinks daily are three times more at risk from a stroke or dementia, when compared to those who did not consume diet drinks, Boston University researchers found.
The researchers believe the artificial sweeteners including aspartame and saccharine, a low-calorie sweeteners, maybe affecting the blood vessels, eventually triggering strokes and dementia – as opposed to sugar-sweetened drinks
Although there was no link between sugary beverages and either of the illnesses, scientists found, people who more frequently consume sugary beverages such as sodas and fruit juices are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volumes and smaller hippocampal volumes–an area of the brain important for memory.
The research concludes that scientists no longer be regarded those drinks as the healthier alternative and urge the public to stick to water or milk.
The study includes almost 4,400 participants over the age of 30.
“Our findings indicate an association between higher sugary beverage intake and brain atrophy, including lower brain volume and poorer memory,” explained corresponding author Matthew Pase.
“We also found that people consume diet drinks daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia. This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia,” he said.
The researchers point out that preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure did not completely explain their findings. For example, people who more frequently consumed diet soda were also more likely to be diabetic, which is thought to increase the risk of dementia. However, even after excluding diabetics from the study, diet soda consumption was still associated with the risk of dementia.
Although the researchers suggest that people should be cautious about regularly consuming either diet sodas or sugary beverages, it is premature to say their observations represent cause and effect. Future studies are needed to test whether giving people artificial sweeteners causes adverse effects on the brain.