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Diet Sodas Have Been Linked to an Increased Risk of Stroke, Here’s Why

Most people enjoy a soda every now and then; whether it’s on the weekend as a treat, or with a meal at dinner. It's considered a healthier option, when it comes to sodas, to avoid the sugar-filled drinks in favor of something that has been marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet,” but a new study, published in the journal, Stroke, has found that these artificially sweetened drinks have been linked to an increased risk of strokes.

The study focused on post-menopausal women, and the scariest part is it’s not just the people who are drinking liters upon liters of the stuff per day, but those who drink as little as two beverages a day. According to Time, researchers (The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) joined forces) studied data from more than 81,000 postmenopausal women, and concluded that compared to women who drank no soda at all, or less than one beverage a week, “women who drank two or more artificially sweetened drinks a day had a 23% higher risk of having any type of stroke.” The risk of having a stroke due to clotting in the brain blood vessels is even higher, with a 31 percent increase. The high-risk group was also 16 percent more at risk of death, of all causes, Health notes.

"Previous studies have focused on the bigger picture of cardiovascular disease," lead study author Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani said, according to CNN. "Our study focused on the most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke and its subtypes, one of which was a small-vessel blockage. The other interesting thing about our study is that we looked at who is more vulnerable."

According to CNN, other earlier research has indicated a link between diet soda and “stroke, dementia, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes.” And this latest study should give us pause before reaching for a can of soda, however, the publication also notes that “This study, as well as other research on the connection between diet beverages and vascular disease, is observational and cannot show cause and effect.”

The study does not directly state that these drinks are responsible for the strokes, but rather focuses on the effect that artificial sweeteners can have on our bodies. It is believed that there is not enough research on these products to determine the effects, although there have been suggestions that certain sweeteners could affect the body's ability to breakdown glucose, or alter the bacteria in the gut, which can lead to a number of health issues, Time reports.

[Image via BrandonKleinVideo / Shutterstock.com]

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