The dangers of consuming sweetened beverages, from soft drinks to flavored coffees and teas to juices, is well documented. These beverages can add to our daily calorie intake 150 to well over 300 calories with each can, cup or glass, causing weight gain and prompting diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
To combat this, many people drink diet drinks, artificially sweetened with saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, sucralose or stevia. However, while this may cut calories, recent research shows that these artificial sweetened beverages (ASB) raise the risk of stroke and heart disease and are not one bit healthier than their sweetened counterparts
Dr. Tanquilut explains, “The study, published in March, followed over 81,000 post-menopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 for twelve years. Researchers were careful to factor into their data-crunching stroke risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and age. Even after those with pre-existing risks factors were adjusted in the data, the results were very alarming.”
When a woman drinks two or more ASBs a day, she is 23% more likely to have a stroke than a woman who consumes fewer than one diet drink a week or not at all. The ASB drinkers were 31% more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke, an event caused by blockage or clots in the blood vessels. Research found these ASB drinkers also had a higher incidence of dementia which may be caused by a series of nearly undetectable, tiny strokes in the smallest blood vessels in the brain.
Researchers also determined that ASB drinkers were 16% more likely to die from any cause than non-ASB drinkers. African-American women fared the worse, as even those without heart disease or diabetes previously were nearly 4 times as likely to have an ischemic stroke.
While researchers did not tease out which artificial sweeteners were associated with the highest stroke risk, they do stress that all of the effects that artificial sweeteners have on the body long-term are still unknown.
Dr. Tanquilut said, “What is known is that artificial sweeteners don’t satiate your body. The sweet taste, with no real energy or calories behind it, actually prompts your body to want real sugar – and more of it. Drinking diet drinks to lose weight doesn’t work. Studies show that diet drinks can actually cause weight gain.”
So what did the non-ASB drinkers with the significantly lower stroke risk consume? Water – lots of it – along with unsweetened tea.
“Water is the absolute best, healthiest choice,” says Dr. T. “Your body needs plain water to function at its best. Water is a major component of your blood, and adequate water keeps veins and arteries healthy.”
To cut your risk of stroke, diabetes, obesity and a plethora of other health issues, pour those sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks down the drain and drink water. Too difficult to go cold turkey? Switch to unsweetened tea, put frozen or fresh fruit in your water or add sliced cucumbers for a fresh taste.
Do you have questions about the association between diet drinks and an elevated risk of stroke – and how this could be affecting your health? Reply to this email or call 815-824-4406 to schedule an appointment. We are happy to help!