Pepsi Focuses On ‘Guilt-free’ Beverages, Yet More Research Casts Shadow Over Diet Sodas

Diet soda is getting more bad publicity. PepsiCo said this week that its latest quarter was boosted by “guilt-free” products such as diet soda and bottled water, as consumers move away from sugary drinks, but more research is casting a pall over artificially-sweetened beverages too.

Artificially sweetened beverages may be linked to an increased risk of stroke and dementia, according to a recent study by the American Heart Association’s peer-reviewed journal Stroke. The researchers looked at 2,888 people over the age of 45 (with a median age of 62) for stroke risks and 1,484 people over the age of 60 (with a median age of 69) for risk of dementia. After adjustments were made for age, sex, education, caloric intake, diet, exercise, and smoking, they found that diet soda drinks “were associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.” (The study cites correlation rather than causation.)

Diet soda sales have tumbled as consumers, turned off by studies on artificial sweeteners, have switched to bottled water, teas and energy drinks, instead. And this not the first study that has made a connection between diet soda to other serious medical issues. Several recent studies have linked diet soda and cardiovascular disease and showed a correlation (if not a causation) between cancer and aspartame. The beverage industry says people who are overweight and already at risk for heart disease may consume more diet drinks in an attempt to control their weight and the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that artificial sweeteners are safe.

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