Study explores link between high diet soda consumption and dementia risk

Study explores link between high diet soda consumption and dementia risk

Diet soda and artificial sweeteners have been under scrutiny and many research projects have tried to check the impact of long term consumption of artificial sweeteners on health. A new study has tried to find a link between high consumption of artificial sweeteners and diabetes, dementia and stroke risk. The new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke has found that risk of developing dementia and suffering from stroke was three times higher for people who consumed at least one beverage with artificial sweetener per day. The study team added that their study only found an association between regular consumption of artificial sweeteners and risk of stroke, dementia and they don’t suggest that diet drinks cause higher risk.

The study team added that more research would be needed on the subject to find a link between regular consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and risk of stroke, dementia. The research team carefully checked health data for 2,900 people over age of 45 for the stroke study. For dementia related cases, 1,500 health profiles were analyzed by the research team. Study participants filled their eating and drinking habits in questionnaires over a period of seven years. The research team followed up study subjects for another 10 years. The data was collected under the Framingham Heart Study, a project of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Boston University.

At the end of 10 years of follow-up, 97 study subjects suffered a stroke. Out of 2,900 study participants, 82 suffered ischemic stroke, mainly caused by blockage of blood vessels.

For dementia study, out of 1,500 participants, 81 suffered from dementia. Out of 81 diagnosed cases of dementia, 63 were diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.

The study team found that people consuming at least one artificially sweetened beverage were three times likely to develop ischemic stroke compared to people who consumed negligible amount. The study team couldn’t find such association in case of people consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. The risk of developing dementia was found 2.9 times higher, the study team reported.

Study lead author Matthew Pase, a senior research fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine said, "We have little data on the health effects of diet drinks and this is problematic because diet drinks are popular amongst the general population. More research is needed to study the health effects of diet drinks so that consumers can make informed choices concerning their health."

"The sample sizes are different because we studied people of different ages," Pase said. "Dementia is rare in people under the age of 60 and so we focused only on those aged over 60 years for dementia. Similarly, stroke is rare in people aged under 45 and so we focused on people older than age 45 for stroke."

While responding to the study, Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, said, “The FDA, World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority and others have extensively reviewed low-calorie sweeteners and have all reached the same conclusion -- they are safe for consumption. While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not -- and cannot -- prove cause and effect.”