Do Diet Drinks Increase Stroke Risk After Menopause?

New research offers more insight into the potential for diet drinks — namely drinks sweetened with artificial sugar substitutes — to harm cardiovascular health.

A study that followed tens of thousands of postmenopausal women for more than 10 years linked greater consumption of diet drinks with an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and death.

The link between diet drinks and stroke was the strongest among causes of strokes from clogged arteries, and particularly smaller blood vessels.

The journal Stroke published a paper on the analysis. The lead author is Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani.

Dr. Mossavar-Rahmani and his team noted that the findings do not prove that diet drinks harm the heart and circulatory system. This is because the study is an observational study and figures on diet beverage consumption are taken from self-reports.

However, Rachel K. Johnson, who chairs the panel that writes the American Heart Association’s (AHA) scientific advice on diet drinks and heart health, adds, “This study provides evidence that limiting the use of diet drinks is the right thing to do for your health.”

The new study suggests that the emphasis should be on drinking water as the healthiest calorie-free beverage, unless there is sufficient evidence of who can benefit from consuming diet beverages.

Diet Drinks and Cardiovascular Risks

Data for this study were obtained from the group of 81,714 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observation Study.

All of the women were between the ages of 50 and 79 when they enrolled in the 1993-1998 period. The research then tracked their health with regular assessments for an average of 11.9 years.

Compared with consuming less than one diet beverage per week or less, researchers found that consuming two or more per day was associated with:

  • 23% increased risk of stroke,
  • 31% higher risk of stroke from clotting
  • 29% higher risk of heart disease, such as in a fatal or non-fatal heart attack
  • 16% increased the risk of death from any cause.

They also found that among postmenopausal women without a history of heart disease or diabetes, a high intake of dietary beverages is linked to a more than doubled increased risk of stroke from blockages in small arteries in the brain.

Postmenopausal women with obesity who drink two or more diet drinks each day have twice the risk of stroke than those who drink less than once a week.

MedicalNewsToday, Diet drinks linked to a higher risk of stroke after the menopause, 2019


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