Are diet drinks a danger after the menopause?

Weight management can become harder as we age, certainly for women after the menopause, so no wonder some of us might be tempted by diet drinks. Zero calories, perfect, right? Well, new research suggests we should be avoiding them rather than turning to them.

A 10+ year observational study of thousands of postmenopausal women has linked a higher consumption of artificially sweetened beverages to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and death. The link was strongest for strokes from blocked arteries (from smaller blood vessels in particular) and while this does not prove that diet drinks harm the heart and circulation system, this certainly suggests it prudent to limit their consumption for health.  

The data analysed was from an observational study covering a racially diverse group of 80,000+ postmenopausal women. At the 3-year evaluation point, the women answered questions about their consumption of diet drinks in the previous 3 months – including any low-calorie colas, soda, and fruit drinks sweetened with artificial sugar substitutes.

Adjusting the results  to screen out other factors that influence stroke risk (e.g. age, smoking, high blood pressure) the researchers found that compared with consuming fewer than one diet drink per week – or none at all – consuming two or more per day was associated with a 23% increased risk of stroke, a 31% higher risk of a stroke that results from a clot, a 29% higher risk of heart disease (as in a fatal or nonfatal heart attack) and a 16% raised risk of death from any cause.

The numbers also revealed that high consumption of diet drinks among postmenopausal women with no history of heart disease or diabetes was linked to a more than twofold raised risk of strokes arising from blockages in small arteries in the brain. Meanwhile obese postmenopausal women who drank two or more diet drinks each day also had twice the risk of stroke than those who drank fewer than one per week.

While the data did not specify which artificial sweeteners the women had consumed, why take the risk? Water is the most healthful zero-calorie drink – with mint or slices of lemon, cucumber or orange if you really need a flavour boost.

Make eating real food Just Routine

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