Drinking just two sugar-free diet drinks increases risk of stroke, heart disease by a third: Study

The study tracked 80,000 women over 50 for 12 years and showed the risk of early death for sugar-free diet drink addicts is 16 percent higher than those who do not consume them


                            Drinking just two sugar-free diet drinks increases risk of stroke, heart disease by a third: Study

Experts have warned that drinking sugar-free diet cola every day can significantly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. New findings show that consuming two or more artificially sweetened drinks in a day escalates the risk of heart disease by a third and stroke by a quarter.

The risk of early death for diet drink addicts is 16 percent higher when compared with people who never touch them, Daily Mail reports. That said, scientists are hoping their shocking finds serve as a warning to those who consume diet sodas regularly.

A can of Diet Coke is displayed in a cooler on June 29, 2018, in San Francisco, California. (Getty)
A can of Diet Coke is displayed in a cooler on June 29, 2018, in San Francisco, California. (Getty)

Lead author Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, said, "Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet. Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease."

According to experts, when vessels supplying blood to the heart narrow, the risk of a heart attack, angina, or stroke increases exponentially. If an artery is blocked, it can result in a heart attack, while an ischaemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked in a similar manner.

Guests sample Diet Pepsi at the Lincoln Center during Spring 2012 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on September 10, 2011, in New York City. (Getty)
Guests sample Diet Pepsi at the Lincoln Center during Spring 2012 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on September 10, 2011, in New York City. (Getty)

The study, published in the journal Stroke, also claims that women who are obese have a greater risk of a stroke if they consume two or more diet drinks a day. Furthermore, the potential risk is even higher for African American women who consume comparable amounts.

However, while the findings suggest a link, a direct correlation couldn't be established between the consumption of diet drinks and the risk of stroke or heart problems, Dr. Mossavar-Rahmani said.

The research tracked 81,714 post-menopausal women, aged 50 to 79, for an average of 12 years in order to gather relevant data and assumed one serving of diet drink was 355 ml. That said, authors had not looked at individual artificial sweeteners which could be directly responsible for the elevated risk. "We don't know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don't know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless," Dr. Mossavar-Rahmani said.

The research tracked 81,714 post-menopausal women, aged 50 to 79, for an average of 12 years in order to gather relevant data and assumed one serving of diet drink was 355 ml. (iStock)
The research tracked 81,714 post-menopausal women, aged 50 to 79, for an average of 12 years in order to gather relevant data and assumed one serving of diet drink was 355 ml. (iStock)

On the other hand, the American Heart Association recently published an advisory note claiming there was inadequate evidence to conclude that low-calorie artificially sweetened beverages did affect the risk of heart disease and stroke. Nonetheless, it states that water is the best choice for a no-calorie drink.

Dr. Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition emeritus at the University of Vermont, said, "Unfortunately, current research simply does not provide enough evidence to distinguish between the effects of different low-calorie sweeteners on heart and brain health. This study adds to the evidence that limiting the use of diet beverages is the most prudent thing to do for your health."