You may want to put that ice-cold can of diet cola down – a new study has found that supposedly ‘healthier’ diet fizzy drinks could well be much worse for us than we originally thought.
Most people assume that because the drinks are ‘calorie-free’ and ‘sugar-free’, that they’re better for us, and could help to keep off the pounds. But according to the University of Boston, they could actually be causing something pretty sinister…
A study conducted by the university surveyed 4,372 adults over 45, and found that diet fizzy drinks are much more likely to cause horrible things such as strokes and dementia than their more sugary, original counterparts.
In fact, the study even went so far as to say that adults who down a can of the stuff a day are three times more at risk of strokes, and 2.9 times more at risk of dementia – yikes!
But why? According to the researchers, it’s all down to a chemical called aspartame, which is used in diet drinks to make them taste sweeter in the absence of sugar. The ingredient has been found to constrict blood vessels, which could eventually lead to dementia and strokes.
Matthew Pase, senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, said, “Our study shows a need to put more research into this area given how often people drink artificially sweetened beverages.
“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.”
And Pase was keen to make clear that the study doesn’t meant that anyone who drinks these diet fizzy drinks will either have a stroke or develop dementia.
He said, “In our study, three percent of the people had a new stroke and five percent developed dementia, so we’re still talking about a small number of people developing either stroke or dementia,”
The researchers are instead urging people to drink milk or water instead, as healthier alternatives.
However, the Alzheimer’s Society has clarified that the study does not prove conclusively that diet drinks are linked to dementia.
Responding to the research, Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said, “This research does not show that artificially sweetened drinks cause dementia. But it does highlight a worrying association that requires further investigation.
“Research into dietary factors is very complex and there are a number of issues that need clarifying, for example why drinks sweetened with sugar were not associated with an increased risk in this study, and teasing out links between all types of sugary drinks, diabetes and dementia.”
And it seems that the NHS are also commited to reducing our intake of sugary drinks; the news of the study comes as the NHS agrees a deal with retailers who have outlets in hospitals, aiming to reduce the amount of fizzy drinks they sell to no more than 10% of their total bevarages.
Shops including Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, Greggs and Subway have all agreed to do so, in a bid to limit sugar intake in hospitals.
According to the BBC, retailers who don’t comply could potentially face a total ban on selling sugary drinks – such as fruit juices – in their hospital shops.
Here’s hoping that the move from NHS England can make a real difference…