What diet drinks may do to women over 50

Sweet fizzy drink with ice on a blue background. Close Up. Shutterstock ID 1016825335 Purchase Order

Sweet fizzy drink with ice on a blue background. Close Up. Shutterstock ID 1016825335 Purchase Order

Certain groups fared even worse: Among obese women and black women with no history of heart disease or diabetes, a diet drink habit pushed clot-driven stroke risk up by roughly twofold and fourfold, respectively, the researchers reported.

African-American women also had a higher risk of stroke.

The research, published in the journal Stroke, included data from 81,714 post-menopausal women (who were aged 50-to-79 at the start of the study) and who were tracked for an average of 12 years.

The study didn't look at individual artificial sweeteners or at the specific diet drinks consumed, so researchers also can't say which sweeteners are harmful.

Women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened drinks - Diet Coke or Pepsi Max, for example - were 31 per cent more likely to have a clot-based stroke, 29 per cent more likely to develop heart disease, and 16 per cent more likely to die from other causes, when compared to women who consumed less than one of these drinks a week or none at all.

"Higher intake of [artificially sweetened beverages] was associated with increased risk of stroke, particularly small artery occlusion subtype, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality", researchers concluded.

Mossavar-Rahmani is an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and population health's division of health promotion and nutrition research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City.

Apart from this, the risk of stroke doubled in women without previous heart disease or diabetes and obese women without previous heart disease or diabetes.

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It's important to note that while the study found a link between drinking diet beverages and stroke and heart disease, but could not prove definitively that diet drinks cause these health issues. "We need to do more research on why we are seeing these associations".

"This is another confirmatory study showing a relationship between artificially sweetened beverages and vascular risks".

The study authors pointed out that the American Heart Association (AHA) has recently underscored the lack of sufficient research into the cardiovascular impact of diet sodas.

She added: "The American Heart Association suggests water as the best choice for a no-calorie beverage".

"Unfortunately, current research simply does not provide enough evidence to distinguish between the effects of different low-calorie sweeteners on heart and brain health. However, for some adults, diet drinks with low-calorie sweeteners may be helpful as they transition to adopting water as their primary drink".

Study author Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani acknowledged that an "association does not imply causation".

"The take-home message is that these findings give us pause", she added.

Diet drinks may seem like healthier options than sugary sodas and fruit drinks, but studies haven't all backed up their health benefits.

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