Diet Drinks Increase the Risk of Strokes in Women

Diet Drinks Increase Risk of Stroke in Women

Diet Coke is the third most popular soft drink in the U.S. However, before you grab a can, know that researchers associated a higher risk of strokes caused by a blood clot in women who drink more than one artificially sweetened beverage a day. And the association between diet drinks and stroke risk is stronger in obese women and in African American women.

Read about diet drinks

The study, published in the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke, is the first to look at the association between drinking diet drinks and the risk of specific types of stroke in a large and racially diverse group of post-menopausal women. Researchers looked at data on 81,714 postmenopausal women (age 50 to 79 years in the beginning) who participated in the Women's Health Initiative study that tracked health outcomes for an average of 11.9 years.

Researchers found the women who drink more than one diet drink a day are:

  • 23 percent more likely to have a stroke
  • 31 percent more likely to have a clot-caused stroke
  • 29 percent more likely to develop heart disease
  • 16 percent more likely to die from any cause

Researchers also found that women without previous heart disease or diabetes were 2.44 times more likely to have a common type of stroke caused by a blockage of one of the small arteries in the brain. Obese women without previous heart disease or diabetes were 2.03 times as likely to have a clot-caused stroke. African-American women without previous heart disease or diabetes were 3.93 times as likely to have a clot-caused stroke.

"Higher intake of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with increased risk of stroke, particularly small artery occlusion subtype, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality," the researchers concluded. "Although requiring replication, these new findings add to the potentially harmful association of consuming high quantities of artificially sweetened beverages with these health outcomes."

Read about diet drinks and depression

"Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet," said Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "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."

Other studies have found links between health problems and the consumption of diet drinks. A 2017 study found that people who drank diet drinks every day had an increase in their waists of an average 3.16 inches. A 2014 study found an association in mice between drinking diet drinks and developing glucose intolerance by altering intestinal microbiota.

Read about artificial sweeteners

[Editor's Note: If you think you may be having a stroke or heart attack, please seek medical attention immediately. Here is a link to the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.]

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Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!