Artificially sweetened beverages like diet soda are strategically positioned in the market to provide a healthful alternative to sugar-sweetened drinks, which are traditionally linked to a greater risk for conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
A new study, however, links diet soda to an increased risk for stroke and dementia, adding to the growing list of health perils associated with the beverages.
Stroke And Dementia
According to the new research published in the journal Stroke, people who drank at least one diet soda every day maintained nearly three times the risk of suffering from stroke or dementia. The findings were based on 4,300 subjects of the Framingham Heart Study.
Over the next decade, subjects who consumed one artificially sweetened soft drink each day had almost three times the risk of having ischemic stroke - the condition when an artery to the brain becomes blocked -compared to those who never drank these soda products.
At least one diet soda a day, too, translated to 2.89 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent form of dementia that is characterized by memory and cognitive skill decline.
"We know that sugary and artificially sweetened beverages are not great for us. This study adds strength to that, and also says they may not be great for your brain, specifically," said Heather Snyder, Alzheimer’s Association senior director in a CNN report.
Snyder pointed to alternatives such as cardiovascular fitness to elevate heart rate and enhance blood flow, as well as mental games and puzzles to keep challenging the mind.
Childhood Obesity in Kids Of Diet Soda-Drinking Moms
A 2016 study warned that babies born to mothers consuming diet soda while pregnant were at a greater risk of developing childhood obesity.
According to researchers from the University of Manitoba in Canada, pregnant women consuming artificially sweetened liquids every day predispose their children to a higher body mass index during childhood.
Of the 3,033 pregnant subjects included in the study, the team saw that 29.5 percent drank these diet drinks while 5.1 percent of kids born to them became overweight by their first year.
"To our knowledge, our results provide the first human evidence that artificial sweetener consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of early childhood overweight," concluded the authors.
Other Risks And Dangers
Diet soda contains high levels of artificial sweeteners, including a form known as aspartame. Early this year, a study argued that there exists no evidence that artificially sweetened drinks are better options for staying slim than sugar-laden versions. Diet drinks are deemed unable to slash the risk for obesity-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Experts even raise a red flag: Diet drinks can actually cause one to gain weight, mainly through stimulating one’s sweet cravings and leading one to overeat.
Aspartame is low-calorie yet up to 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. It is used worldwide as a sugar substitute in cereals, chewing gum, soft drinks, and thousands of other food and drinks, yet it is not immune to controversy.
Reports linked aspartame to a greater chance of brain tumors and cancer, premature birth, allergies, and liver damage.
Artificial sweetener sucralose, marketed under the brand name Splenda, had also been tied to a significantly increased risk of leukemia and other cancers. In 2013, it was downgraded from a "safe" to "caution" standing because of earlier research also from the Ramazzini Institute.