Diet sodas are often considered to be healthier alternatives to sugary beverages. A study this week is cautioning that immoderate drinking of the low-calorie drinks is associated with a greater risk of strokes or heart attacks.
A study published in Stroke, a journal produced by the American Heart Association, drew on the health data of 82,000 women enrolled in a long-term study of women’s health. Of the participants, 5.1% said they consumed at least diet beverages per day. That group “had significantly greater likelihood” of strokes and coronary heart disease.
Women who drank two or more artificially sweetened drinks had a 23% higher risk of strokes in general, and a 31% higher risk of strokes involving clotting in smaller blood vessels in the brain. They were also 29% more likely to suffer from heart disease and 16% more likely to die from any cause than other women in the study.
The study found that women who were obese were especially at risk of a stroke, even if they didn’t have a history of heart disease.
Previous studies linking diet sodas to strokes and heart attacks have drawn criticism. “These types of studies can’t prove cause and effect, only an association,” the Harvard Health Letter noted following a similar study in 2017. “Researchers don’t have any plausible explanation for why artificial sweeteners might increase stroke risk.”