The war on sugar is still going strong. We’ve all read about the studies linking it to everything from type 2 diabetes and heart disease, to skin ageing and even poor mental health. Sugar-free diets are now socially acceptable, and just this morning a string of shops agreed to cut the proportion of sugary drinks they sell in their hospital branches in England.
But it seems the sweet-toothed among us just can’t win, because artificial sweeteners, used as an alternative to the white stuff, could be just as dangerous.
This means our favourite diet drinks are far from safe and according to a new study, drinking just one can of artificially sweetened soft drink each day could almost triple our risk of having a stroke or getting dementia.
The findings, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, were based on food questionnaires from more than 4,300 people taking part in the long-term Framingham Heart Study. The researchers took into account factors that could affect the results, including age, sex, education, calorie intake, exercise and smoking, reported The Guardian.
Sugary drinks didn’t carry the same risks of stroke or dementia, according to the study, which contradicted previous research on the topic. Nonetheless, the researchers warned people against viewing sugary drinks as “healthy” and recommended drinking water, low fat milk or other non-sweetened drinks instead.
Matthew Pase, a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University’s school of medicine, who co-authored the study, said while the team couldn’t confirm that sweetened drinks cause strokes or dementia, the connection is intriguing and needs to be researched further.
The diet drinks market in the UK is currently thriving, possibly due to the war on sugar, with 45% of all fizzy drinks sold in 2015 being either low or no calorie, according to the British Soft Drinks Association. Sadly, it may be time to re-think our daily Diet Coke habit.