If it gets to lunchtime and you struggle to fight off those cravings for an ice-cold can of freshly-opened Diet Coke, you’re not the only one, but news that just one can a day triples your risk of stroke and dementia might persuade you to leave your fizzy favourite on the shelf.
Researchers at Boston’s University School of Medicine found that people who regularly guzzle artificially-sweetened drinks are nearly three times more likely to suffer the most common form of stroke than those who choose healthier options.
Far from just another dodgy survey, the team carefully analysed ten years of data from more than 4,300 people, and the results were clear: ‘diet’ does not necessarily mean healthy.
Ditch the daily habit
“Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially sweetened beverages less than once a week,” read the study, which was published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Stroke.
“After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), calorific intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischaemic stroke, all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.”
It’s important to note that, while the US research is not to be ignored, it is believed to be the first to link diet drinks with strokes and further evidence will be required before any concrete conclusions can be reached.
Don’t be fooled by ‘diet’ labels
Many people choose calorie-free diet drinks thinking they are better for them, but there is no medical evidence to support this, and artificial sweeteners can be hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. They stimulate the brain to seek out more sugar, which may lead to weight gain and even diabetes.
Don’t go reaching for that full-fat fizzy drink instead, though, as those have been found to damage blood vessels and decrease memory function. The 330ml can of Coke contains 35g of sugar, or seven teaspoons, which is the recommended daily allowance for an adult. Sugar that is not burned off is converted to fat, which in turn increases your risk of a heart attack.
Don’t shoot the messenger but you’re best off sticking to water. Sorry.