Recent studies point to a tie between diet drinks and dementia and stroke.
Nothing scares most folks more than being dependent on their spouse or family for medical care and being unable to complete their activities of daily living. Imagine yourself in a diaper requiring 100% support from your children, spouse, and family to function. You do not know who you are and who anyone else is and your memories are fleeting, and you may even need assistance to walk or ambulate. Nothing inspires panic in most of us more than this picture.
A study published in April of 2017 in the journal Stroke pointed to diet soda as a potential increase in the incidence of both dementia and stroke. The study’s results were touted in the online medical journal “MedPage Today” as a link, but other sites have used more inflammatory language to whip the flames. The study is actually an observational study so it cannot determine causality. The study looks at 4000 data points through a questionnaire that asked if the subject drank one diet soda per day and they concluded that a single soda was tied to an increased incidence of dementia and stroke.
If you watched the news in recent weeks or read one of the many online articles that quoted this study, you might become rather alarmed and thrown your diet soda in the trash. Fox News made the statement that “Daily dose of diet soda tied to triple risk of deadly stroke” but the fact is that this risk even if it is truly tripled is exceptionally small. The articles may have made you feel as if a single soda might increase the risk that you might be headed for a blood clot in your head or instant mental deterioration. The problem is that you cannot determine this from this study and to be honest your should not but the hype.
The facts are not quite as dire as the study, or news articles would like you to believe. Both sources sound scarier than you should believe. This tie truly is a minor link that may result from another cause. More research is needed because this cause may be an artificial sweetener or many other potential causes that drive people to drink diet sodas. It may be that obesity is the reason because we know that overweight subjects are more likely to drink soda.
The bottom line: More studies are needed. I recommend that you limit diet soda intake. It is not natural, and there are many potential compounds to cause disease in them. I drink about one per day. I am not worried about them cause illness. I would be more worried about high fructose corn syrup, but I am not excusing it from my diet either. This study did not tie the results to a single sweetener, and waste sugar alternatives do not have the same health risks so it is hard to believe that they would all lead to this same result. Enjoy your soda while they perform more research and don’t freak out. This study needs a little more time in the oven.
Bachert , Alexandria, and Alexandria Bachert . “Study Finds Diet Soda Associated With Stroke, Dementia.” MedPage Today, April 20, 2017. http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/DietNutrition/64681.