According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 75 percent of patients who had a stroke for the first time have high blood pressure. Because of this correlation, doctors strongly advise patients to focus on lowering their blood pressure to decrease their risk of stroke.
However, lowering your blood pressure is not the only risk factor for stroke. Researchers have discovered a common drink that most people think is healthy is in reality associated with an increased risk of stroke and dementia.
This study was done by scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine in 2017.
The team examined the effect of artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) on the health of adults over the age of 45 for an extended period. About three thousand participants took part in this study. The team measured their daily beverage consumption via the food-frequency questionnaire for ten years.
The Boston researchers’ result showed that people who drank a minimum of one diet soda a day had two times the risk of stroke compared to the group who did not drink the beverage.
Upon further analysis, the team also found that the diet soda drinkers had a three-times increased risk of experiencing an ischemic stroke attack.
The scientists behind this study noted that their findings add to the growing evidence that suggests ASBs significantly increases a person’s risk of stroke especially ischemic stroke.
The team analyzed about 1,500 people over the age of 60 for the effect of diet soda consumption on dementia. The result shows that drinking even one soda a day can increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The team also pointed out that this study was the first of its kind to show a strong correlation between drinking diet soda and dementia caused by Alzheimer’s and other forms of the disease. They also explained that more research needs to be done to help experts understand the causal link of diet soda.
Ralph Sacco, former president of AHA, commented that the result of this study is of great concern because diet soda is marketed as a healthier alternative to sugary beverages. And Sacco also said there is a growing number of studies that shows that despite popular belief both sugary and artificially sweetened drinks could harm the brain.
He explains further that major governing bodies such as the AHA have approved the replacement of sugar with artificial sweeteners to manage diabetes, high blood sugar, and other metabolic syndromes without fully understanding the health effects.
It is worth noting that the American Heart Association has acknowledged the findings of the Boston study.
According to AHA, various studies have linked artificially sweetened beverages to obesity, stroke, vascular diseases, and heart attack.
The Boston team highlights that they did not find a correlation between drinking sugary beverages and stroke or dementia. The reason for this result could be that the daily consumption of regular soda is not as high as diet soda, explains the lead scientist of this study, Dr. Matthew Pase.
He also warns that people should not use this result as evidence that sugary drinks are healthier than diet soda.
Nutritionist Rachel K. Johnson from the University of Vermont commented that people should focus more on reducing added sugar for better weight management and improved nutrition. And that artificially sweetened drinks should be consumed sparingly till there’s further evidence that proves their health effects. She added that it is best for people who want to manage diabetes or obesity to consume water, low-fat milk, or other sugar-free drinks.