Healthy Living

Artificial Sweeteners May Heighten the Risk for Strokes and Dementia

Artificial Sweeteners May Heighten the Risk for Strokes and Dementia

While the exact cause of dementia and strokes remain a mystery, new research warns that artificially sweetened drinks could heighten the risk of either.

The study came from the Framingham Heart Study, formed from a collaboration between Boston University and the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, and the results were published in early 2017. The method of the study included assessments every four years which studied sweetened beverage intake. They included variables such as what type of sweetener (sugar or artificial)was in the drinks and the frequency of its consumption, and correlated the results to dementia and strokes, considering such factors as age, sex, diabetes, and several other conditions which might affect the results. What they found was that while sugary drinks showed no effect on dementia or strokes, artificially sweetened beverages seemed to increase the risk for both.

Some articles reporting on the research, such as the Daily Mail’s frightening post “Diet drinks TRIPLE your risk of stroke and dementia- and are FAR more dangerous than drinks sweetened with sugar” more explicitly warn against the consequences of diet drinks than the research suggested. In fact, there are contradictions within the article itself. Sophie Borland, the health editor, reports, “The results showed that adults who had one or more diet drink[s] a day were 2.9 times more likely to develop dementia and 3 times more at risk of strokes compared to those who [had] virtually none at all” (Borland).

However, direct quotes from the study itself were included in the same article and did not seem to support Borland’s claims, “‘In our study, 3 percent of the people had a new stroke and 5 percent developed dementia, so we’re still talking a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia’” said Matthew Pase, senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (The Daily Mail).

While the evidence against artificially sweetened drinks and its effect on dementia and strokes seems almost arbitrary at the moment, other studies conclude there are other reasons to avoid them.

With so many bad omens on artificial sweeteners, some may wonder if sugar is so bad after all. Even so, Matthew Pase from the Framingham Heart Study gives a reminder that it is still not a health food, “‘Although we did not find an association between stroke or dementia and the consumption of sugary drinks, this certainly does not mean they are a healthy option. We recommend people drink water on a regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages’” (The Daily Mail).

Given the danger of artificial sweeteners, sugar in moderation does look like the best option for an occasional sweet sip.