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The consumption of just one can of a diet soft drink daily risks tripling the chance of suffering from a stroke or dementia, a new American study has found.
Scientists from Boston University School of Medicine looked at data from about 4,400 people from the town of Framingham in Massachusetts.
The number of sugary beverages and artificially sweetened soft drinks that the subjects consumed was monitored between 1991 and 2001.
Then, over a further 10-year period from 2001 to 2011, the participants who drank one artificially sweetened drink per day were found to be almost three times as likely to have an ischemic stroke or be diagnosed with dementia, compared to those who never consumed such beverages.
According to the study, which was published in the journal Stroke on Thursday: “To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimer’s disease.”
The work was nevertheless unable to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between diet soft drinks and the health risks, so more research is needed to find out whether they are actually a direct result of artificially sweetened drinks.
According to Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society: “This research does not show that artificially sweetened drinks cause dementia. But it does highlight a worrying association that requires further investigation.
“Research into dietary factors is very complex and there are a number of issues that need clarifying, for example, why drinks sweetened with sugar were not associated with an increased risk in this study, and teasing out links between all types of sugary drinks, diabetes and dementia.”
In previous studies on the effects of diet soft drinks, a connection was found between low-calorie sweeteners, like saccharin and sucralose, and reduced fertility rates. The discovery was made by researchers from the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, after interviewing women undergoing IVF treatment.
Other studies have linked the consumption of diet soft drinks with increased, rather than decreased, obesity.