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Drinking Artificially Sweetened Beverages May Increase Stroke Risk

Stroke is a brain injury that happens when blood flow is blocked. It can cause disability, impact quality of life, and be costly to treat. There are many lifestyle factors that can raise your risk of stroke such as diet, not getting enough exercise, smoking, and stress.
Researchers wanted to look at the link between post-menopausal women who drink artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) and stroke, coronary artery disease, and all-cause mortality. Examples of ASB are diet soda or diet fruit drinks. The study, published in Stroke, found that a higher intake of ASB was linked to an increased risk of all three.

About the Study

The cohort study included 81,714 women from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. It is a long term study that follows health of postmenopausal women 50 to 79 years old over a long period of time. The women were enrolled in the study between 1993 and 1998. The average follow-up time was 11.9 years.
The study found that the 5.1% of women who drank two or more ASB a day were:
  • 23% more likely to have a stroke
  • 29% more likely to get heart disease
  • 16% more likely to die from any cause

How Does This Affect You?

This study was a type of observational study. They watch events as they happen, but do not interfere or bring in factors that can change the result. This means the study cannot prove that women who drink ASB may be more likely to have these health problems but suggests that there may be a link. Also, the women in this study self-reported the amount of ASB they drank, so the results may not be reliable. However, this study supports prior studies that have also proposed this link.
Drinking an ASB from time to time may not pose a health problem. If you are at a high risk for stroke or heart disease, talk to your doctor about nutrition goals or worries. Ask about other lifestyle habits, such as exercise, that can also help you decrease your risk. Choose beverages like water, seltzer, or herbal tea without sugar or artificial sweeteners. Read labels to see which ingredients are included. It may not be clear which contain artificial sweeteners.

RESOURCES

American Stroke Association
http://www.strokeassociation.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

References

Risk factors for stroke or transient ischemic attack. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T361037/Risk-factors-for-stroke-or-transient-ischemic-attack. Updated October 1, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019.
Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Victor Kamensky, et al. Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative. Stroke, 2019. Available at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/STROKEAHA.118.023100.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
  • Review Date: 02/2019
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