New study links diet drinks to increased risk of stroke among older women

Researchers are reporting in a new observational study that daily consumption of diet drinks appears to increase the risk of stroke among older women. 

In the study, researchers analyzed data on more than 81,000 postmenopausal women (age 50-79 at start of study) participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, which is supported by NHLBI.  The researchers evaluated the health of the enrollees for an average of about 12 years.  They found that women who consumed two or more artificially sweetened beverages daily were 23 percent more likely to have a stroke and 29 percent more likely to develop heart disease than other women in the study who drank fewer diet drinks or no diet drinks at all.  The study also found that risks were higher for certain women, including obese women and African-American women. 

The researchers note that while the study identifies an association between diet drinks and stroke, it does not prove cause and effect.  The study, funded by NHLBI, appeared in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.