According to research, the daily consumption of one or more diet drinks is associated with an increased risk of stroke as a result of a blocked artery. This observational study was conducted among a large group of post-menopausal women. Although the study identified an association between artificially sweetened beverages and stroke, it doesn’t prove cause and effect as it relied on self-reported diet drink consumption information.
In comparison to women not consuming diet drinks at all or less than once per week, women consuming 2 or more diet drinks per day had a:
- 23% more chance of having a stroke
- 31% more chance of having a clot-caused stroke(ischemic)
- 29% more chance of developing heart disease (non-fatal or fatal heart attack)
- 16% more chance of dying from any cause
Some women had higher risks than others. Heavy diet drink consumption, defined as 2 or more times a day, more than doubled risk of stroke in:
- Those women who previously had no diabetes or heart disease had 2.44 times more chance of having a stroke as a result one of the brain’s very small arteries being blocked
- Obese women who previously had no diabetes or heart disease had 2.03 times more chance of having a stroke as a result of a clot
- African-American women who previously had no diabetes or heart disease had 3.93 times more chance of having a stroke as a result of a clot
Data was analyzed from 81,714 postmenopausal women who took part in a study tracking health outcomes for about 11.9 years after the women enrolled. At the 3-year evaluation, they reported how many times in the last 3 months they’d consumed low calorie diet drinks such as artificially sweetened sodas and fruit drinks. Information regarding which artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming or which type of artificial sweetener the drinks contained was not included. Adjustments were made for a variety of stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, age, and smoking. The results apply to postmenopausal women and may or may not apply to younger women or men.
Although a science advisory recently published by the American Heart Association found inadequate scientific research for concluding that diet drinks increase heart disease and stroke risk, the association that this study demonstrates gives pause for thought.