A lot of people really love drinking soda. At this point, we know that the tantalizing combination of sugar (or artificial sweetener), bubbles and flavoring isn’t the best for our health, but according to new research from the American Heart Association, drinking diet soda can be especially dangerous for post-menopausal women, as it can increase their risk of having a stroke.
This is important because it’s one of the first studies to consider the association between drinking beverages made with artificial sweeteners and the risk of certain types of stroke in a very large, diverse group of post-menopausal women. In fact, data from nearly 82,000 women who were between the ages of 50 and 79 at the start of the study was used.
The research found that when compared to women who either didn’t drink diet soda at all, or only drank it once a week, those who drank it more frequently were 23 percent more likely to have a stroke, 31 percent more likely to have a clot-caused (ischemic) stroke, 29 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 16 percent more likely to die from any cause. In addition, African-American women without previous heart disease or diabetes were almost four times as likely to have a clot-caused stroke than the other groups in the study.
“Many well-meaning people, especially those who are overweight or obese, drink low-calorie sweetened drinks to cut calories in their diet. Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease,” Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York said in a statement.
But, it’s important to keep in mind that this was an observation study, meaning that the data comes from participants self-reporting, rather than a scientific clinical trial with a control group, and therefore doesn’t prove that there’s direct causation. Also, as of right now, researchers don’t have recommendations for artificial sweeteners may be less harmful than those found in diet soda.
“We don’t know specifically what types of artificially sweetened beverages they were consuming, so we don’t know which artificial sweeteners may be harmful and which may be harmless,” Mossavar-Rahmani said.
So for now, if you’re craving a fizzy, low-calorie drink, grab a seltzer instead.