Matthew Pase, a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, and the lead author of the diet drinks study, says it's important to note that the absolute dementia risk for any one person who drinks diet pop is low.
For the first study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia, researchers examined data, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and cognitive testing results, from about 4,000 people enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study's Offspring and Third-Generation cohorts.
The study of 2,888 individuals age 45 and older looked for the development of a stroke and 1,484 participants age 60 and older for dementia over a 10-year period.
Over a 10-year follow-up, the researchers found that people who drank one or more artificially sweetened beverages per day, including diet sodas, were nearly three times more likely to have an ischemic stroke-the most common kind of stroke that happens when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain-compared to people who didn't drink diet drinks at all.
"Since diet soda and regular soda have no real nutritional benefit I suggest that people avoid them and drink water instead", he said.
But even after excluding diabetics from the study, diet soda consumption was still associated with the risk of dementia.
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While researchers caution against over-consuming either diet soda or sugary drinks, more research is needed to determine how-or if-these drinks actually damage the brain, and how much damage may be caused by underlying vascular disease or diabetes.
A group of scientists from Boston University have conducted a new study that suggests that diet beverages are more likely to cause strokes or dementia than those filled with sugar, the Daily Mail reported. People did not drink sugary drinks as often as diet ones, which the authors said could be one reason they did not see the same link with regular soda.
As a result of the burgeoning war on sugar, more people are turning to artificially sweetened foods and drinks as "healthful" alternatives.
Pase and other researchers say the work points clearly to the need to investigate the possible biological reasons artificial sweeteners might affect the brain and the need for more experimental and clinical trials.
The researchers found that 3 percent of the participants had suffered a stroke and 5 percent had developed dementia, most of which were cases of Alzheimer's disease.
While the findings do not prove that diet drinks damage brains, they support other studies that show people who drink them frequently tend to have poorer health. "Surely we should be trying to help consumers reduce their calorie intake, not presenting unproven claims".
New studies indicate that people who consume sugar-sweetened drinks and artificially sweetened drinks, such diet sodas, have a significantly increased risk of suffering conditions linked with brain degeneration, such as brain shrinkage, loss of memory function, stroke and dementia, including dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease.