Some of us don’t want sugary drinks in our lives—the potential weight gain, tooth decay … why bother? So we grab one of those tempting ice-cold diet whatevers—cola, orange, ginger ale, lemon-lime you name it.
But we may be harming our health: Check out the study published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers discovered that among post-menopausal women, drinking two or more diet drinks a day was linked to a sharp uptick in the risk of having a stroke.
In an analysis of data gathered from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which had more than 80,000 female participants ages 50 to 79, some shocking findings emerged. Compared with those who consumed diet drinks less than once per week, women who sipped two or more artificially sweetened beverages per day were 23 percent more likely to have a stroke, 31 percent more likely to have a clot-caused stroke, 29 percent more likely to develop a heart attack, and 16 percent more probable to die from any cause at all.
The Soda-Stroke Link: Say It Isn’t So!
The researchers noticed some other frightening connections, too. Women without previous heart disease or diabetes were almost two and a half times as likely to have a common kind of stroke that’s caused by a blockage of a small artery in the brain; obese women who had not been previously diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes were more than twice as likely to have a clot-caused stroke; and African American women who didn’t have pre-existing diabetes or heart disease were almost four times as likely to have a stroke triggered by a clot.
Those of you who love cracking open a can of diet soda may wonder, couldn’t some other factor be at work here? If so, here’s an answer: The results were culled after adjusting for factors that could be linked to stroke, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and age.
Women who sipped two or more artificially sweetened beverages per day were 23 percent more likely to have a stroke.
The research didn’t pinpoint the exact kind of diet drinks being consumed, nor does it confirm cause and effect. But artificial sweeteners are not looking like a good thing to our eyes. “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,” said Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York.
This might be an incentive to start trying some of the iced tea varieties out there (green, mint, and more) or get in the habit of spiking some seltzer with a splash of juice or some fresh fruit and raising a glass to your health.